11 24 2014.

race report: santa hustle half marathon 2014

The Santa Hustle Half Marathon. AKA the best race ever. Okay maybe that’s a stretch, but this surely was my best race yet.

Let me preface this by saying that I haven’t been feeling the holiday season yet. Maybe because it’s not even Thanksgiving yet, or maybe because other than a few small gifts here and there – I really haven’t started my Christmas shopping or decorating. When I entered the mall to pick up the race packets on Saturday, all of the volunteers were wearing elf costumes and there was holiday music playing. Honestly, despite the race name being “Santa Hustle” I had sort of forgotten that it was a holiday themed run!

Upon entering that mall, I was filled with that familiar joy that accompanies this time of year: the excitement for the holidays, the extra friendliness and camaraderie, the happiness. When I retrieved my bag, I decided to try my sweatshirt on right there since we were expected to wear it on race day. It was way too small! Everyone around me was saying the exact same thing. The woman behind the table was nice enough to trade mine for a size larger – which I think was discouraged, since the athlete information stated trade-ins could be done on race day only. Anyways, I left with a sweatshirt that fit – thankfully.

Pictured: “Throwaway Gloves”, Long-Sleeve Tech Tee (a gift from Darren’s co-worker!), Santa Hustle Event Sweatshirt, Mizuno Breath Thermo Layered Tights ($70), FuelBelt Race Number Belt ($12.45), Flipbelt in Carbon ($28.99).

The next morning I woke up at 5. The race had a 7am start, and despite it being right down the road from my apartment, I wanted a solid 2 hours to eat, digest and use the bathroom before I had to start running. All of you runners know what I’m really getting at here.

My pre-race nutrition consisted of a bagel with cream cheese. In the past, I would eat a bagel or english muffin with peanut butter and a banana, but I made the mistake of buying bagels that were seasoned with savory ingredients: not a good pairing with peanut butter.

My mom arrived shortly after and we carpooled to the race start. The best thing, right off the bat, about this race is that it starts and ends at our giant mall. There was plenty of parking. We could have accommodated a race 3-4 times the size there! Because the mall didn’t open for a few more hours, there was no other traffic on the road. Perfect!

Almost immediately, we lined up in our corrals. The start time, however, kept getting pushed. They were trying to sync our start with a live television broadcast. We ended up starting at 7:15. The only problem this caused was just being freezing at the start, otherwise, it allowed us to prepare more mentally. Mary, a fellow SheJAMs member, was waiting at the start as well for her race and took our picture!

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Finally, we were off!

Up until the moment I was running the race, I thought I was going to hate the course. For the most part, it’s a series of out-and-backs – and it’s not very scenic. I’m not an out-and-back kind of girl.

course

The course changed slightly from when I signed up. I didn’t particularly notice it, but many of the other runners did. What was once a single out-and-back became two (turnaround at mile 3 and 8). Surprisingly – I loved it. I loved every bit of this course. I loved getting to see the leaders pass us and getting to yell out cheers to them. I loved getting to see people that we knew at different parts of the race.

Best of all. I felt wonderful throughout this whole entire race. I felt like I could have kept going.

From the beginning: the first few miles led us through an industrial park kind of area. I hadn’t noticed it until we reached the high ground and could look over the finish line that we had gained a bit of elevation! I was using my Garmin and my mom was running “naked” (y’know – without a watch!) so I was the only one who really knew how fast we were going.

Naturally, we settled into low-9:00/high-8:00 miles. In fact, our first few miles were sub-9. I didn’t tell my mom this because she seemed comfortable and I was trying to warm up at that point in the race! At mile 2, I experienced my obligatory race day hurdle: The Cramp.

This time it wasn’t as bad as my previous run-ins with The Cramp. When I reached mile 3, I took a Shot Blok and that seemed to help. I didn’t drink any water until the water station around mile 6 – but my body accepted it just fine! After that, I felt no discomfort at all for the rest of the race.

It seems like an uneventful race, but it really was exciting. There were candy and cookie stations where lots of spectators cheered for us! We didn’t end up grabbing any candy or cookies due to knowing our exact race nutrition combinations that worked for us. I kept glancing at my watch and finding us consistently around a 9:00 pace. I knew that we were on track to beat our Moose Pond times. Despite knowing what our pace was, we were definitely running by feel and we never changed our pace based on what the watch said.

Mile 10 was our slowest mile at 9:23 – which is actually faster than most of our miles during the Moose Pond Half! That mile actually marked the moment that my mom and I split apart. Whatever I had been doing up until that moment, it had been working for me. I felt my best at mile 10 and wanted to keep going with it. Mom gave me her permission to go ahead, so I took off.

santahustle

I picked up the pace and challenged myself. I ran to the point where I was uncomfortable – which was actually exhilarating because I knew that I was pushing myself beyond my comfort zone. As usual, I felt a slight wave of nausea but found that I could mentally talk it away. Those last three miles felt so long. We ran down a side road that led directly to the mall and as we approached the finish line, discovered that we had to take a right turn and ago around the mall again!

I loved that last .1 mile though. I passed a lot of people during those last 3 miles and after I hit 13, I could tell that I was mentally ready to be done, with that pace at least. Turning the corner at mile 13, the finish line was right there. No more turns. I gunned it. With a 5:39 pace! And I made it under 2 hours!

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It was kind of surreal. I had been running so fast and hard after that goal in the last 3 miles that I was a tad disoriented after crossing the finish line. I just kind of stood there in the finishing chute afterwards – totally in the way. I grabbed a water bottle, then remembered that my mom would be coming down the chute soon!

She finished in under 2:00 as well – at 1:58:59 – a new PR for her as well! We both were 5th in our age group!

Splits (in miles)
1 | 8:58
2 | 8:47
3 | 8:55
4 | 9:14
5 | 9:10
6 | 8:55
7 | 9:04
8 | 9:12
9 | 9:04
10 | 9:23
11 | 7:58
12 | 7:51
13 | 7:46
13.1 | :25
OVERALL | 1:54:48 (5th AG!)

Some notes about the race. First off, I thought that it was very well planned. The holiday cheer was definitely there. All volunteers had smiles on their faces. It just felt like a happy race.

Another thing that impressed me was that, despite the flaw in sweatshirt sizes, they allowed anyone to exchange their shirt size before and after the race. If they didn’t have the size on hand, they provided you with a long sleeve tee and mailed the new size to your house. They handled this issue very well and without question.

Everyone was under the impression that the after party was free for all registered racers. (In fact, there was a tear-away flap on the bib that said “after party.”) Turns out, upon entering Jimmy The Greeks, that you had to pay for everything inside. It was a bit disappointing to have paid all that money (and since we registered early, we didn’t get to use the LivingSocial deal that later came out!) and not get any hot food or drinks provided. Granted, there were bananas and granola bars at the finish, but my sweat was making my body cold and I really just wanted something warm.

The only other thing was that they had reindeer there. I know it was meant to be a novelty thing and spark excitement – but I felt so bad for those two reindeer. They were penned up in a circular gate in the middle of all of the commotion and were both laying down and kind of sulking into themselves and avoiding contact with people. As an animal lover, I just felt that this was wrong and the animals should have been more protected and/or not brought at all!

Other than that, it’s exciting to end November with a 5-minute PR and sub-2:00 race!


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