Saturday was the 40th running of the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon. It’s the country’s largest half marathon (30,000+) and one I’ve avoided in recent years in favor of smaller races. But this year I was eager to do a spring half and had a couple of friends who were race ambassadors (thus constantly posting about it on social media and getting me all enthused against my will), so I said what the hell. (Unfortunately I said it like five weeks ago and didn’t have a whole lot of time to train.)
I finished in 1:59:20 (9:06 average), 212/1939 in my age group, 1220/13,487 for my gender and 4547/24,769 overall.
I finished 43 seconds shy of a PR, so while it’s frustrating to miss the mark by so little time, it gives me confidence that I CAN do it just by tightening shit up and running a little smarter. I haven’t raced a lot in the last couple of years and haven’t raced a HALF since 2012 so a lot of Saturday felt like shaking off the cobwebs and getting accustomed to racing again.
I set my alarm for 5:45 but I woke up at 5:30 and couldn’t go back to sleep (UNHEARD OF for me). I realized I’d just started my period. Whispering curses, I stumbled in the dark to the bathroom and then to the kitchen to make coffee. My biggest concern was getting out of the house without waking the kids. When the baby wakes that early, I can nurse her back to sleep, but it takes a while and I didn’t have time to spare. Luckily, I got out of the house without waking anyone.
The finality of walking out the door made me anxious, and I procrastinated in the kitchen for a moment as I tried to think of anything else I needed. Garmin, gels, sunglasses, hat, sunblock, water, phone, credit card, tampons, keys, wallet, toast, COFFEE. Okay, go.
There are parking lots right next to the finish, but I chose one closer to the start. (The course is roughly a loop but finishes a couple blocks north of the start.) There was less traffic on the way in, it was cheaper, and I knew exactly where to go. I took an interior walkway from the parking garage to the Hyatt and after finding a bathroom, I sat in the lobby and texted a friend and people-watched until it was time to head outside. I did about a half-block warm-up jog on the way to my corral.
At the start/some spoilers
Since I signed up so late, I was assigned to Corral I in the second wave, which started at 7:45. The race is extremely well-organized and started promptly, but there was still a great deal of congestion at the start. That, plus me just not having the confidence to run as fast as I needed to led to a lackluster first half. By the time I reached the Brick Yard (roughly the halfway point), I was hitting 8:50s but it wasn’t enough to catch up.
Miles 1-3 (9:03, 9:04, 9:04)
Down Washington Street past the zoo. Sometimes you can glimpse the elephants from here but I didn’t even look up. I was busy weaving around the slower runners. I didn’t want to waste a lot of time and energy trying to dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge, but I also didn’t want to hang back and twiddle my thumbs. I took my first gel at a water station just past mile 2 because I’d only been able to choke down one piece of peanut butter toast in the car and I was hungry.
Miles 4-5 (9:09, 9:03)
We headed west out of the downtown area. The sun was out and I was nervous about running 9:00 miles when so many of my training runs had fallen apart at that pace. I also just kind of spaced out a little and ran slower as a result. When we turned onto Main Street in Speedway I made a conscious effort to tighten up and focus. Many lively spectators lined the streets here and I think that gave me a boost.
Miles 6-8 (9:04, 8:58, 8:53)
The Yard of Bricks. This is the famous part of the course on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and it’s typically a tough part of the race. When it’s sunny, the heat beats down on the blacktop and you get roasted. In years past, this was the point where I started to break down. But this time, it was overcast and I felt strong. I knew I had to start logging -9:00 miles if I still wanted to finish under 2 hours. I took another gel before heading down into the tunnel and then up onto the track.
On the jumbo screen, I saw people pausing to bend over and ‘kiss the bricks,’ an Indy tradition. I thought about how gross that was and how if somebody in front of me stopped short and caused me to stumble, I’d flip out. And it’d probably be on the jumbo screen.
Miles 9-11 (9:00, 8:57, 8:54)
A quiet stretch of side streets before we headed back downtown. My energy started to flag and I started running numbers in my head. I took another gel at mile 10. (Probably should have taken it at 9 though.) I was running harder now but still waiting for mile 12 to shift into a higher gear. I knew if I hauled ass, I might still scrape out a PR, but I didn’t want fall apart or throw up. We turned onto 10th Street and more spectators lined the streets. I started to feel a little excited and a little nauseated.
Miles 12, 13 (8:47, 8:44)
White River Parkway to the long final stretch up New York Street. Cow bells. I was trying stay under 8:40 but I couldn’t hold onto it and my legs were about finished. I felt like throwing up and even briefly put my hand over my mouth but it passed. In my head, I chanted, shut the fuck up, shut the fuck up, shut the fuck up. (Thanks, Jen!)
I couldn’t BELIEVE how long it was taking. What the FUCK? Where IS IT? I screamed in my head. Finally, I spotted the bright yellow banner over the finish line and I set my gaze on it and ran as hard as I could.
Last .32 (7:47)
It was the first half marathon that I can remember feeling like I was going to collapse as soon as I crossed the finish line. I also realized I was about to pee. I moved off to the side out of the way of the other finishers and sat down on the curb. I crouched, digging my heel into my crotch until I felt like I could stand up without wetting my shorts and then headed over to post-race area (and the porta-potties) in Military Park. I ate a Clif bar on the way over.
I started to feel raindrops as soon as I got into the park. The forecast had been sunny/70s, but it was now chilly and wet. I thought longingly about the dry sweatshirt locked up in my car two blocks away. Luckily, my friends were in a tent with their training group and invited me over there for snacks. I had a cookie and some Michelob Ultra. Because it was there.
A few final thoughts, in bullet form
- None of my longer training runs went all that well so I wasn’t really confident in my ability going into this race. Taking on the last five weeks of an ambitious (for me) training plan meant my legs were pretty tired most of the time. So while my running improved, my confidence did not.
- Initially my goal was 1:57 (a PR + some insurance), but realistically, I knew I’d have to have an incredible day for that to happen. Later (right after that hot run in Missouri), I adjusted my goal to just a PR and if that didn’t happen, just finishing under 2 hours.
- I kept waiting for my legs to give out and they never did, so I think if I’d just started out little stronger, I could have done it.
- I drank water at every aid station and took gels at miles 2, 6 and 10. This was a little different strategy for me since in my training runs, I carry my own water and take Shot Bloks more frequently. But it worked out and I’ll probably do the same next time (except maybe take the last gel a little earlier).
- According to the Garmin, my splits were consistent as hell. But if you look at the official results, you can see how much time I tacked on with sloppiness/not running the tangents.
I’m signed up for the Indianapolis Half October 8 and even though it means training through the worst part of the summer, I’m eager for another shot at a PR. I’m going to add HILLS to my routine this time, and also work on improving my strength routine. Instead of doing 3 miles on one of my strength days as the Higdon plan called for, I’m going to do two days a week of quality strength and one less day of running. (That’s the plan anyway, wink-wink.)