Wednesday, May 16, 2012

2012 Lincoln Half Marathon Race Recap

I assure you, my official time was NOT 2:00.1
Half Marathon number three is in the books.  Although it wasn’t my best race, I still achieved a new PR, and I got to run through my childhood home town with great crowd support.

(Check out the rest of the Race Recap after the jump)
The Race Plan
Like Disney, I used a Races2Remember pace band, and I used the “Modified Warm Up” plan.  During training, I determined that my goal for this race would be 1 hour, 50 minutes, although I had also bought a 1:48 band (with the bands I bought, you get two for a single order).  I might have gone for the 1:48, except the forecast for race day was 70s-80s and humid.  Since I was used to training in temps in the 30s, I didn’t think it would be a good idea to push myself in this heat.

Wake Up, Pre-Race Prep, and Transportation to Race
My alarm went off at 5:05 AM (race time was 7:00 AM).  I had not slept well either of the two nights I had been staying in Lincoln.  Friday night, my two-year old daughter (who came down with me while my sick wife and son stayed back in Minnesota) did not sleep well in her new environment.  Saturday night, she slept better, but still fussed a few times through the night so that I woke up in case she started screaming.

After my alarm went off, the first thing I heard was incredibly LOUD rain and what sounded like hail.  I grabbed my phone to check the weather map, and it showed a pretty big thunderstorm cell, but it looked like it was moving quickly and should be through the area before the race started.
I got up, got dressed, and got in my car to drive over to my cousin’s house.  She’s also a runner and her, her husband, and her husband’s sister-in-law were all running the race.  My cousin’s brother-in-law (her husband’s brother) drove us to the University of Nebraska campus, where the race started.  There, I waited in a long line for the rest room (because of the anticipated heat, I had drank a very large bottle of Gatorade to make sure I was hydrated).  Then it was time to line up.

Start Line
The number of runners was nowhere near as many as Disney (which had something like 27,000 runners), but it was still a very respectable size (10,000).  This included both the half marathoners and the full marathoners (about 75% half marathoners, though).  They started us in waves, with the elites and everyone up to about 7:30/mile going in the first wave.  They then held us back for about 5 minutes to let that wave clear out before starting us in the second wave.  And we were off

(Note: I’m not going to talk too much about specific locations in this race.  But, I will mention specific streets or locations for part of this.  If you want to follow along, there’s a nice map of the course here)

Mile 1
The race course started in the heart of the athletic portion of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus, and the first third of a mile or so was through the campus (although it just looked like a normal street to me).  Almost immediately after the start there was a left turn, followed by a right turn two blocks later onto 16th Street (which we stayed on for almost two miles).
Mile 1 also runs right by the State Capitol, which I still think is a beautiful building.  Just past the Capitol was the first spot where my dad set up (he had come down from Minnesota with my mom to help with my daughter and to be a spectator).  He actually went to several places along the course (a total of five different locations, I believe), and he took pictures of me at several.  The picture below is of me and the Capitol right near the first mile marker.  I almost missed him, but after he shouted loud enough, I saw him and waved “Hi.”

My goal for Mile 1 was to take it relatively easy, and my time goal was 8:39 (15 seconds slower than my overall goal pace of 8:23).  I did OK, and even hit the mile marker a bit early.

Mile Split: 8:36
Total (so far): 8:36

Mile 2
The second mile of this race was run almost entirely on the same street (16th street), with a slight downhill throughout.  My goal pace for the mile picked up a bit (8:23, assisted by the downhill), and I was close (I lost a few seconds for the mile, but overall was only a second or two behind the plan).  There isn’t much to say about this stretch.  It  was pretty crowded, so it was a bit hard to maneuver (although you didn’t need to maneuver since it’s just a straight line), but otherwise it was just running down a typical street.

Mile Split: 8:29
Total: 17:04

Mile 3
The first “adversity” of the race!  Right at the end of Mile 2, the course turned left onto South Street and went up a fairly big hill for almost the entire mile up South St. and turning onto Sheridan Blvd (one of the older streets in Lincoln, with big old houses).  Not only was the hill fairly large (although manageable), but we were crowded onto two lanes of traffic, so this was one of the more congested parts of the race for me (even worse than the bike path from Miles 6–8).  Because of this, I was unable to position myself very well and got stuck behind some slower people, and missed my Mile 3 goal of 8:29.

 Mile Split: 8:40
Total: 25:45

Mile 4
Mile 4 and 5 are probably one of the nicest parts of the course.  As I mentioned above, this runs along Sheridan, which is a nice wide Boulevard.  It also was the section of the course that had some of the better crowd support (a lot of people set up on Sheridan), so that was nice.  This was also the section where I ran close to my Grandma’s house (as I mentioned in my post about my race playlist, she and I were close so the song I had playing when I basically passed by her house was a song we played at her funeral... I actually avoided crying, which was a plus).  Somewhere in this mile I spotted my dad for the second time... then it became a game of “Where’s Dad?” for the rest of the race.
Who's got two thumbs and loves racing'?  THIS GUY!
My goal for Mile 4 was 8:18, and I was starting to have trouble keeping up with the goal pace at this point (nothing too worrying, but I could tell this wasn’t going to be my best feeling race).

Mile Split: 8:18
Total: 34:02

Mile 5
More running along Sheridan, more great crowd support, another Mile goal of 8:18 that was a bit challenging.  Come to think of it, Mile 4 and Mile 5 were pretty much identical when it comes to how they felt.

Mile Split: 8:18
Total: 42:21

Mile 6
Just before the start of this mile, we turned south off Sheridan and onto 48th Street.  The entirety of Mile 6 was pretty much down hill (which is why the time goal for this mile was 8:09 rather than 8:18).  Somewhere along 48th Street the 1:50 pace group flew past me, and this is about the point that I knew I probably wasn’t going to hit my goal.  I thought about trying to keep up with them (even though they weren’t running my race plan, so it probably would have been a bad idea), but the sun had come out by this point, and the temperature and humidity was starting to creep up, and I knew pushing it was a bad idea.  I still pushed fairly hard, I just knew my goal was probably going to be out of reach.

One nice highlight of Mile 6.  My mom and aunt were able to get my daughter up, dressed, and over to the race toward the end of Mile 6, so I actually got to give my little girl a kiss for just a brief moment before moving on.  That was kind of cool.  I guess before I got there, my daughter had been clapping along with the other spectators for people.

Mile Split: 8:11
Total: 50:32

Mile 7
Miles 7, 8, and more than half of Mile 9 are run along a bike path right next to Highway 2 (a divided highway in the south part of Lincoln, and one of the biggest streets in Lincoln).  It was kind of weird because all along this stretch, people were parking on the side of Highway 2 (which I’m pretty sure isn’t allowed) so they could cheer on their runners.  One of these people was my dad at his third stop along the route.  I spotted him about a half mile past where I saw my mom and daughter.

From what I’d read online, this bike path along miles 7 and 8 is typically very congested.  It’s a pretty narrow bike path (basically only the width of a wide, but not terrible wide, sidewalk), so there is really only room for two people at a time (maybe three if you squeeze).  I tried to pass as few people as possible knowing that any energy expended trying to negotiate along this path would be wasted (particularly since “The Hill” of this course was coming up).  I did a pretty good job, and came close to my goal split of 8:21.

Mile Split: 8:22
Total: 58:54

Mile 8
Mile 8 was pretty much the same as Mile 7.  Running along a narrow bike path, although with the addition of a slight hill going up over an overpass.  My goal for this mile was 8:21 as well, and I knew “The Hill” was coming.

 Mile Split: 8:22
Total: 1:07:16

Mile 9
I had heard about “The Hill” that is at the end of Mile 9.  I had even driven the course with my dad the day before to get a look at it.  And honestly, it didn’t look that bad.  I’d done tons of hills as part of my training (I live in a pretty hilly area, and “The Hill” was smaller and less steep than many of the hills I’ve had to run).
See that doesn't look too bad.
But, the stories I’d heard about “The Hill” were correct.  It’s pretty brutal.  It comes at a part of the race where you  have just spent two miles battling a crowded bike path.  About a half mile before “The Hill” is a moderately big hill that, although not a killer, definitely saps some of your energy.  Oh yeah, and when I got to “The Hill,” the weather had transitioned from a pleasant, cloudy low-60s with low humidity, to a mid-to-upper 70s with high humidity.  The point is, even though my race plan had built in slower mile (goal split was 8:28, rather than 8:18 which would have been the goal for this plan if the course were flat), I just couldn’t hit it.  And as you’ll see “The Hill” pretty much wrecked me for the rest of the race.

Somewhere in here, I missed seeing my dad at his fourth stop along the route, which is too bad, because I think seeing him would have helped as I trudged up "The Hill".

Mile Split: 8:42
Total: 1:15:58

Mile 10
For my race plan, I had hoped that after cresting “The Hill,” I would be able to coast nicely and make up some time lost from the previous mile.  My goal split for this mile (8:15) certainly seem to be consistent with that hope.  But, after hitting the heat of the day and the worst part of the course, my body had other ideas.  I took the downhill at the beginning of this mile very easy, and missed the goal by quite a bit.

Mile Split: 8:35
Total: 1:24:32

Mile 11
After a pretty tough Mile 9 and Mile 10, I was still feeling pretty wrecked.  Mile 11 starts along a fairly narrow boulevard and then sptis you out on 10th Street, which is the last long stretch before the Stadium.  Unfortunately, 10th has a bunch of rolling hills that generally go uphill until just before Mile 12.  The hill was nothing compared to the Mile 9 hill, but since the heat of the day was really starting to assert itself, I had to struggle to keep up.  My goal was 8:23 for this mile, and instead I paced my slowest mile of the whole race.

Mile Split: 8:45
Total: 1:33:17

Mile 12
More running along the rolling hills (but generally uphill) section of 10th Street.  I basically felt like total crap by this point.  But, I knew the end was near, so I tried to push it a little bit just to get this thing done.  Even with that, I still missed my goal pace of 8:28 for this mile.  I saw my dad at the last aid station and his cheering helped a bit.

Mile Split: 8:33
Total: 1:41:50

Mile 13 to Finish
Mile 13 is mostly run along 10th street.  You run up to Memorial Stadium from the south and then run along and past the west side of the stadium, and then hang a sharp U-turn to run BACK along the west side of the stadium.  Somewhere in there is the end of Mile 13 (I didn’t see a mile marker (if they had one)).  Then you enter the stadium at the southwest corner, run through a short tunnel, and burst out onto the football field (very cool), with the finish line being exactly at the 50 yard line.  I had set up my running playlist to play Husker fight songs from the University of Nebraska Marching band, which was cool. . . but honestly, by this point, I just wanted to finish (I think the blank and exhausted look on my face in the picture below shows that).

That woman is totally gonna catch me
It was sooo hot.

My goal pace for Mile 13 was 8:28, so I made up a bit of time there.  My goal pace for the last 0.107 miles was 8:14, and I was just below that.

Split: 9:06 (8:13/mi avg.)
Official Time: 1:50:57

Overall, this was one of the harder races I’ve ever run.  I think I was fairly well trained (although I could have used more general cardio training/cross training, which I’m going to try and work on for the Twin Cities Marathon), but the heat baffled me.  I know a good part of my trouble with the heat was my lack of familiarity with running in warmer temps (the vast majority of my training was done in the early morning when the temp was usually in the 30s or colder).  There isn’t much I can do about a sudden huge jump in temperatures (temps the previous weekend in Lincoln were in the 50s, and although it can be warm in early May, it is usually in the upper 50s or lower 60s).

I’m also happy that I PRed by quite a bit (more than 4 minutes improvement), and I think the fact that I felt so crappy by the end means I probably paced myself closer to my abilities (in contrast, I felt great toward the end of Disney, and for a Half Marathon, I think if you feel really strong at the end, you didn’t push enough in the middle).  I hope I can learn from this.


  1. Great job!! I hope to someday run a 1:50 The weather really threw me for a loop, too. It was crazy!

    And you're totally right...we were probably near each other for a lot of the race. In fact, I spotted a sliver of my rear in your 4th picture above!! (bright yellow shorts & bright orange shirt on the left side of the photo)

    1. Lizz... Yep... that's definitely you. My dad took another picture a little before the picture I used here that's a bit of a wider shot, and it's clearly you (or someone who dressed exactly the same as you!). Neat! Congrats on your PR. I'm betting you could have hit 1:50 if it wasn't so hot and humid.

  2. wonderful recap of the race - nice work! what is one to do when your training takes place mostly in the cold weather but the event is in hot humid awfulness?

    i look forward to next year's half!

  3. Great work! That was a tough race and brutal weather. I ended with the absolute slowest time ever for a half but still a great race

  4. Awesome race and a great PR! Thanks for stopping by my blog, it's nice to "meet" ya! :)