Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Davis MOO-nlight Half Marathon - Race Report!

As part of my "Race More to Race Better" training strategy, I have signed up to race pretty much any distance that falls on a day I can actually participate.  I work six mornings a week, including holidays, so that really limits my choices to Sunday races, or - ta-da! - a Saturday evening half marathon, a/k/a the Davis MOO-nlight Half.

Lemme just throw it out there right away that I am not normally an evening runner.  If I didn't have an afternoon running client, I would pretty much guarantee you that I had never run at a time that included the letters "PM."  In fact, I can count on one hand the number of times I have gone for a run after eating dinner.  No, let me amend that:  before Saturday night's race, I could count on one finger the number of times I had run while the sun was going down instead of coming up (last summer's Twilight Trail Adventure, a super fun and blazing hot 10K that I apparently never blogged about, sorry).

Suffice to say, I felt a little ill-prepared for a 13.1-mile jaunt in the dark.  Not mileage-wise, just... everything else.  Like what the hell do you eat before running at 7:30 PM?  Should I take a nap so I wouldn't be tired?  Would it be hot or cold when the sun went down?  Will I need a headlamp?

Answer key:  a light, early meal, yes I should have but didn't, still hot, and yes.

Walking to the race start with Big Boy, who ran the 5K.
The half marathon went off in two waves, with the slower runners (2:40+) leaving at 6:30 and the rest of us at 7:30.  The 10K started with Wave Two of the half, and the 5K began at 7:45.  All told, there were about 3,000 runners running three different but overlapping courses at three different times.  I arrived a little later than I would have liked, due to traffic and parking issues, but still had plenty of time to hit the porto-potties and do a nice warm up.

I had absolutely no time goal for this race, other than hoping not to run a Personal Worst.  With a belly full of dinner, temperatures in the 80s, a race course that can best be described with the word "convoluted," and 14 hours of being awake behind me, I couldn't even begin to imagine what I was going to feel like on this run, so I figured I shouldn't aim too high.  And, hooray!  I totally aced my goal!

Right out of the starting gate and I'm already blurry - ha!
About a mile and a half into the race, we ran right past the start on a bridge overcrossing.  I got to holler "Good luck!" to Big Boy, who was lining up for his 5K start.  See that one guy wearing a blue shirt on the far right?  He was one of the Wave One runners swimming like a salmon upstream through all of the Wave Two-ers and 10K runners.  I felt so bad for him and the other Wave One-ers.  Nobody seemed to realize that the course doubled back on itself at this point, so we were sort of hogging the whole road.  :(
I started off at an easy pace, mostly because there was absolutely no other pace to be run.  The street was crowded and I had purposely seeded myself near the middle of the pack so as not to go out too hard.  Well, no problem there.  I focused on my breathing and my effort level and just settled into my run.  I felt pretty good.  It was hot, but not suffocatingly so.  My stomach was surprisingly fine and my legs felt strong.  Everything was smooth sailing until somewhere in Mile 2 when my lower back/upper butt/hamstring suddenly seized up.  WTH?  I could still run, but I wasn't super happy about feeling pain so early in the race.  It reminded me of the lower back pain I had several years ago when I was dealing with sciatica and degenerative disc disease.  Not cool.  I walked through the water station and carried on with it.  My back/butt/hammy never felt better during the race, but thankfully it never really got worse either.

In fact, I think my back issue pretty much sums up my whole race:  I didn't exactly feel good, but I never really felt bad either.  My pace never picked up, but I also didn't slow down very much.  It wasn't awesome, but it didn't suck.

Wonky feet?  Chicken wing?  Check and check!  Cruising past the start - again! - a little after the halfway point.

This is the race course.  Seriously.  We ran through neighborhoods, under several tunnels, on packed-gravel paths, through parking lots, on sidewalks, over bridges and on paved nature trails in people's backyards.  I'll give them points for being scenic, but dude.  Waaaaaaaaaaaay too many twists and turns to actually hit the tangents.  I was just happy my Garmin only came up with 13.3 miles for this.
This race was pretty different from my last half marathon, in that I didn't feel nervous before the start and wasn't the least bit competitive while running.  Mostly I was gutting it out.  I traded places back and forth with the 2:05 pacer quite a few times, but I never really cared about staying in front of her.  I passed a few people and I got passed by a few people.  I ran for awhile with a girl whose feet were clomping so incredibly hard against the ground that it sounded like she was chopping wood.  It hurt my knees just listening to her.  I felt a little bit bad for the runners I passed who had been out on the race course an entire hour longer than me.  I remembered what it was like at the World's Toughest Half when literally the entire field of athletes passed me by on the bike leg.  When it started getting dark, I took a glow stick from one of the cheerful volunteers, but had to ditch it less than a mile later because it was annoying the crap out of me.  At Mile 8, I thought I was at Mile 9 and came up with the very silly mantra, "Any fool can run four miles, P, keep going!"  When I got to the real Mile 9, I had to laugh, because...well...what else are you going to do?  I walked through every single water station, but ran everything else.  With less than a mile to go, I took a wrong turn following some spectators - they were taking the direct route to the finish line, but I had to go the long way around the parking lot.  I may or may not have dropped an F bomb in front of their child when I realized what I had done.  Oops.  But finally, there I was!  At the finish line!  With another race under my belt and a really, really sweet medal to hang on my display rack!  Woo hoo!

Official finish time 2:06:59, 10/59 AG, 238/855 OA.  Nothing beats finishing a race with a smile!
Big Boy had a great race, too, running a (road) 5K PR time of 19 minutes flat and coming in 9th place overall!

Have you ever run a nighttime race?

What's the coolest medal you've earned?  This one glows in the dark!