Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Oshkosh 1/2 Marathon Report

On April 22nd , I took part in my 3rd half marathon of 2012 - the Oshkosh, WI 1/2 Marathon. I felt like I had done a lot of traveling over the last 15 months in order to run half marathons. I decided that since this one was basically in my back yard, I would give it a try. In 2011, the course was plagued by torrential rains the day before that made it a very hard muddy course. This year, rain held off, but early spring remained, with race time temperatures in the 40's.

This was the first race that I had run without B at my side since my 1st half marathon over a year ago, so I was nervous that I was going to have a hard time setting my pace, since we tend to pace each other nicely as we run. I arrived to the start area about an hour  before racetime.
The starting line was next to the Oshkosh Convention Center. Having run nothing but bigger races in the past, I wasn't quite sure what the starting line procedure was until they called all racers to the the starting line about 30 minutes before the start. The crowd moved en masse to the starting area. I picked a spot in the middle of the pack, having no idea if the people around me were going to be slower or faster than me. The national anthem was performed, and then we were off.

I quickly learned I was much to far forward in the pack, as the faster runners quickly moved past me as we went the short distance down Main St. I knew I had to run my own race, and refused to let myself come up to their pace, as it would be my destruction later on. After about a block on Main St, we made a left hand bend onto Algoma Blvd, and started a long straight stretch that went through the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. The road was wide, and the pack sorted itself out quickly. I found myself a place in the center of the road, and continued at my own pace.

The course was well marked, but the mile markers were not. I've run enough races now that it becomes a mental hurdle for me to know where I am on the course. I missed the mile marker for the first mile, and didn't realize until mile 2 that the mile markers were taped to cones on the side of the road.

Shortly after mile 2, Riverside Cemetery arrived on our left hand side. I could see the leaders on the other side of the cemetery running along the lake trail. I knew that there was a turn around near the 5k mark. About a mile ahead, the course took a bend into the cemetery. As I saw the 5k timing mat, I glanced at my watch and saw 30 minutes right on the head. "Not bad" I thought.....although I was a little concerned that I was going to blow myself out, as this was faster than my normal pace. But - the weather was cool, and I was feeling great, so I took my first walk break, and sent B a text, who had to work that morning updating her on my progress.

The course started along the Waubash Trail that runs along Lake Butte des Morts. The view was nice, and we were running along a smooth dirt trail, so it was a nice place to just zone out and continue on in my zone.
For almost the next 3 miles, I just had fun listening to my iPod running mix that was built for the Princess Half Marathon a month earlier. Shortly before mile 6, the course turned right onto Wisconsin Ave and went over a bridge giving a nice overview of the next part of the course. Of course, this is one of those views that looks are deceiving. Ahead, you can see people running straight and making a right hand bend. To my right I could see people going under the bridge I was on. In my head, I thought it was a simple turn around to come under the bridge.

I was wrong. First, we made that right hand bend into an industrial area. Then we kept going...and going...and going....and runners were coming from the other direction...meaning we were going to be coming back down this boring road. The saving grace for me along this stretch was that I found the 2:10 pace team, and I ran with them for awhile. I kept pace with them until my brain gave me a mental hurdle that caused me to slow down. I took a walk break to reset myself, and then kept going, although I never could catch up to the pace team again. I eventually made my way back to the boring road, where the back of the pack walkers were just starting this area of the course. I went under the bridge, grabbed some water, and a GU, and charged forward with new zeal.

The next couple miles were pretty straight forward down Hwy 44, and past several local businesses. I always enjoy stretches through areas of towns like this. The older architecture reminds me of the town I grew up in, and the locals always come out to lend support. The crowds were sparse, but good in this stretch. I always like having people on the side of the road cheering. It makes me want to keep going. I almost feel bad if I have to take a walk break, so I avoid it at all costs.

A short while later we had a detour through the winding paths in Steiger Park.
It was still cool at this point, which helped my breathing stay focused. We left the park, and headed through residential neighborhoods. I started watching where I was at, and noticed that I was totally killing my PR pace. It's not something I think about until I get to mile 10 or 11 generally, as I can pretend the last few miles is a different race and can push a little harder.

When I reached mile 10, I was at about the 2 hour mark. I texted B at work, to let her know and got a reply "You're gonna PR". I ran another mile and texted her one more time that I was on my last walk break and was going to drop the hammer as much as I could the last 2.1 miles. I came down Main St, and knew the finish line was close. I had to take a quick break going over the bridge, but then came through the finish area. I made a right hand bend and saw the clock at 2:29:00. I kicked it into high gear, and sprinted to the finish. To say I laid it all on the course is an understatement.
I finished with a chip time of 2:29:02, which shattered my old PR by over 20 minutes. I texted B to let her know, and grabbed a quick drink, and made the trip home. On the way, I decided to stop at the mall and see if I could find any running shirts to celebrate my great race. I didn't find any running shirts, but I did find this shirt, which I felt summed up my race nicely.
Yes, I know it's a wrestling shirt. But it fit my attitude for the day nicely. I'll definitely be back for this race next year. I also started a new tradition after this race. I've never smoke cigarettes, but ever since college, I've enjoyed a good cigar on the right occasion. Since the occasions are becoming less and less frequent, I decided that I would enjoy one for each 1/2 Marathon I complete.

66th in Age Group
485 in Division
1045 Overall

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