The decision to add the Akron Half Marathon to this year’s race calendar was late. I registered only 6 weeks out from race day. It was my 16th Half Marathon, and to spoil the results my 4th sub-2 hour race! There really was no “training plan” for this race; it was part of another training plan.
Expo and Packet Pick-up
I showed up at the Expo before it opened. Since I was working a vendor booth, I was allowed early entry. I quickly browsed the other vendors before arriving at my booth. I worked the Glass City Marathon booth from 11am until 4:30pm. I took two breaks, both primarily to use the facilities (pre-race hydration!) and stopped at packet pick-up and a few vendors. Packet pick-up for me personally was smooth with almost no wait, the same for t-shirt pickup. I brought snacks for myself and lunch, but I didn’t eat lunch. Instead at 5pm I stopped at Chipotle on the way to my hotel. Not exactly my normal pre-race dinner, but close I guess.
Race Day Wake-up
I’ll brag. I slept exceptionally well. I woke up around 4am. Started my breakfast (oatmeal and blueberries) and ran down to the hotel lobby for two cups of coffee. Then it was a quick shower to rinse off. I struggled to eat breakfast and drink my coffee. I regretted not waking up earlier to get it all down. The morning prep routine went smoothly and soon I was off to the race.
This race wasn’t a goal race. It wasn’t planned for the most part and was more of a test between Disneyland and Columbus. I was hoping to improve upon my Disneyland performance with a sub-2:05 (9’30” pace) or even get back to a sub-2:00 (9’09” pace). My strategy was to start with the 2 Hour pacer and see how I felt. If I felt good, I would try to break away around mile 6; if not, then I wanted to hang with the group as long as comfortable.
I parked less than 1/2mile from the Start. At this time I didn’t realize that my preferred route home was part of the race course and I also didn’t consider that the runner designated parking areas would be blocked in by road closures for the race.
I took a stop at the University of Akron Student Union to use the rest room then tried to locate gear check. Once that was complete, I set off on my warm-up jog. I threw in a few strides after the first half mile. The weather seemed humid for the warm-up but thankfully disappeared shortly. I took a Salted Watermelon GU 15 minutes prior to race and washed it down with a (disposable) water bottle I elected to carry as I entered my Corral. I settled on a spot in front of the 4:00/2:00 pacer and did my pre-race yoga routine. Before I knew it the race had started.
Miles 1-3: 8’52″/9’02″/8’51”
Almost immediately after crossing the start, the 4:00/2:00 pacer (and crew) passed me. As planned, I hung out at her pace comfortably. Unfortunately the course was uncomfortably crowded. During mile 2, a runner who was struggling to stay close to the pacer fell behind. As she went to catch up, she cut me off and was too close and I accidentally tripped her with my stride, which of course made me stumble and I fell into the guy next to me.
I was close enough to the pacer to see her constantly check her watch. I was concerned that she was either going to be going too fast or too slow or even too inconsistent. But I hung in there…until Mile 3. I had planned on sticking with the pace group until Mile 6, but by the 5K point, I felt the need to separate myself from the crowd because it was too thick, and while I was still surrounded by plenty of people, they weren’t so clustered around me.
Miles 4-6: 9’10″/8’39″/9’06”
I was surprised after the race to see that my GPS had me slowing down for Mile 4. I have it set to show me the average pace, so I don’t get so distracted with the current pace. I had a Lemon Sublime GU at Mile 5.
Around Mile 5.8 was the relay exchange point. The bad thing about the relay runners are the fresh legs. It can be a mental game half way throughout a race to see multiple runners cruise by you. I crossed the timing map with a net time of 52:42 (9’05/mile).
Miles 7-9: 9’19″/8’57″/9’02”
I wanted to pick up the pace around Mile 6 in order to have a negative second half of the race. But unfortunately my legs felt good at the current pace and didn’t seem eager to move faster. I postponed my plan until Mile 10.
Miles 10-13.1: 9’17″/8’53″/9’09″/8’39”
I started trying to consume a Root Beer GU at Mile 9.5. Seriously, like cracking open a can of Root Beer and drinking it! I’ve never understood runners who drink a Coke before or during a race, but it tasted so good.
Despite what the elevation map claimed (and my GPS confirmed), mile 10 felt like the worst incline of the entire half. I seriously swore that the whole mile was a continual uphill before turning right and declining into mile 11. Around Mile 11, I tossed my water bottle. It was empty and I was tired of carrying it. Mile 11.5 another relay exchange point. I crossed the timing map with a net time of 1:44:49 (9’06/mile). I had slowed down to a 9’08/mile pace since the last relay exchange point.
I knew where the 12 Mile marker was located and the left turn towards the finish. I knew it was time to push it. I wasn’t sure my legs had it in me until I turned into the baseball stadium and gave it all I had left.
I knew the race ended in a baseball stadium on the field. I’ve run onto fields before, but what I didn’t expect was it to feel like running on a beach. The change in surface can be a shock to your body, but this change was difficult. It wasn’t hard baseball sand and it wasn’t artificial turf, it was a natural field covered by a mat. Probably wasn’t my most elegant finish because I seriously thought I was going to trip and fall on the uneven soft surface.
Finish 1:58:32 (9’02″/mile)
- 1111/4136 Overall
- 366/2329 Female
- 71/412 Age Group
- Nike+GPS has a course net elevation of 789ft.
I crossed the finish line and received my finisher’s medal as well as some Akron 13.1 socks. I met up with a co-worker, grabbed a beer, cold pizza and some water. The weather was overcast, which was perfect for racing. Cool enough to keep you from overheating, but not so cold as to be uncomfortable. But post-race I was super cold! Thankfully they handed out Mylar blankets when I crossed the finish. We hung out for a bit and then I headed to gear check to pick up my warm clothes (I planned ahead!). It took a while to get out of the outfield and up the stairs, but after exiting I saw that the lead vehicle had the names of every runner printed on it. That was pretty cool. I made it back to my car and eventually to my hotel before it was time to say goodbye to Akron.
Pros: Plenty of maps! Seriously a map for everything. Quick and easy Expo. I never ran the old course, but besides some crumbling roads, I thought this course was a great tour of a city I’d never seen.
Cons: Road closures were well publicized, but as an out-of-towner, I didn’t realize that designated runner parking would be blocked in (despite a million maps).
A 22-page information guide! And you thought my blogs were long. Seriously it was a lot of information to try and surf through. I’m not even sure I read it all.
The roads were wide compared to some of the other races I have participated in, but the course felt overcrowded and really congested. In my post-race survey I suggested more corrals to help thin out the crowds.
Final Thoughts: This was my fourth sub-2:00 half marathon. When I set my PR of 2:01 in 2010, I thought a sub-2:00 race was beyond my reach. I tried for 3 years until finally in 2013. That 2013 PR was a fluke, because it was a fun race scheduled 3 Weeks after a successful PR Marathon attempt. Another sub-2:00 in 2014 was also an accident. In 2015, I trained hard for a PR attempt this spring; while being successful, it was a very difficult race. This race felt effortless for the most part, despite how hilly the course was. All of my other sub-2’s were on relatively flat courses. I definitely noticed the hills and it definitely tried my legs, especially since I haven’t been training hills. In the end, I came out of the weekend happy and positive. Looking forward to my next race and who knows maybe I’ll tackle the Akron Marathon someday!