Maple Grove Half Marathon report

IT IS DONE!!!

I am still a bit sore two days later, but I finished my half marathon May 11!

The soreness comes, I think, from the rolling-hilly race course – 661 feet of total climb, for which I was not entirely prepared (my long runs had, at most, about 412 feet of climb). The good news is, the soreness is just muscle complaints. No join pain! Yay!! (Thank you, Dr. Rohrick at CARE Chiropractic for helping me work through my crooked spine and joint issues!)

I’m not going to talk about which place I finished in the race because that would only depress me. (Although I do have a rationalization to make myself feel better: I was in the 30-39 category, running against all those chipper 30-year-olds. My percentile finish would have been much better if I were a few months older and competing in the 40-49 age group.)

Instead, I am going to talk about how well I ran, compared to how I have been running.

I finished in 2 hours, 33 minutes, giving me an average pace, according to my GPS, of 11:18 minutes per mile! Wow!! (The GPS also said I ran 13.57 miles – 0.47 miles further than half marathon distance, likely due to my wavering on the course instead of sticking to the shortest path around curves.)

The only time I have run faster this year was 10:56 on May 3, but that was on a li’l ol’ 3-mile run during my taper for the half-marathon.

I ran so unexpectedly fast that my mom missed me at the first photo opp station on the course. (*sad face* But she jumped ahead and caught me at the next station and at the finish. *happy face*)

I credit three things for my impressive-for-me time.

  1. The altitude. I trained at ~4,000 feet above sea level and raced at ~1,000 feet.
  2. The general race atmosphere. I am less apt to stop during a race than during a regular training run. Also – no waiting for red lights.
  3. The coffee klatch behind us. O.M.G. Talktalktalktalktalktalktalktalktalk! Blahblahblahblahblah! I heard every intimate detail of their conversations. As I recall, this is exactly why a friend of mine prefers rural races – with fewer people in a race, you are less likely to get in front of a group of nonstop talkers. But, hey – it did motivate me to keep up the pace to get away from them. And I did! I powered up the hills, they walked, and I escaped!

I will now proceed to my review and experience of the Maple Grove Half Marathon event itself. A note: I have only run four distance races before: two half-marathons and two 20K races, and all of them were in Des Moines, Iowa, so I don’t have a huge breadth of experience to compare against. I was also taking analytical mental notes during the race, since I am on the race crew of the newest marathon/half event in Nebraska – the Monument Marathon.

First, to answer the question on many people’s minds this past weekend: Why did you travel all the way to Minnesota to run a half-marathon?!??

Simple: I wanted an excuse to visit family, my mom lives near Maple Grove, Minnesota, and it was Mother’s Day weekend.

Race highlights:

  • Beautiful course mainly on bike paths around a lake. The chittering birds in the spring-greening trees all around us was awesome. There was one bird that sounded like it was singing the first four notes of Beethoven’s Fifth!
  • The people who came out to cheer the runners. There were a few families out at the end of their lawns or driveways, bundled in blankets against the cold, cheering for whomever ran past. This is a definitely a mood-improver for me when I start to flag on a run. There weren’t too many fans out there, but they sure were appreciated!
I loved that this family was making noise. Not so sure their neighbors loved it so much at about 8:30-9 o'clock on a Saturday morning. But the whole neighborhood should have been out watching the race, so there!

I loved that this family was making noise. Not sure their neighbors loved it so much at about 8:30-9 o’clock on a Saturday morning. But the whole neighborhood should have been out watching the race, so there! (Photo by Bugman)

  • The people who brought their pet potbellied pig out for a walk along the race course.
Distractions along the course are always appreciated!

Distractions along the course are always appreciated!

  • It did not rain! The forecast earlier in the week showed rain in the morning. I am SO GLAD it rained overnight and not during the race!
  • The fact that the race bib pickup the day before was at REI, so I could buy energy gels, since I forgot to bring my own.
  • The race was timed with disposable timing chips that were embedded in the race bibs. No need to have a timing chip cut off one’s shoe at the end of the race.
  • The race shirt, which supposedly only finishers got (but the 5K people got them too??), is a wicking shirt in a color bright enough to get half-distracted drivers to notice you when you’re out and about.
Briiight shiiiirt!!! Caution: do not wear on a sunny day unless you have sunglasses.

Briiight shiiiirt!!! Caution: do not wear on a sunny day unless you have sunglasses.

Race lowlights:

  • It was cold and windy. That can’t be helped. But it might have been a nice touch to have heat sheets available for finishers. I didn’t see any.
  • In part because this was only a half marathon and not a full/half race so there were no full marathoners to draw out the finish-area operating time to help slow runners like me, and also in part because the weather was cold and windy, by the time I finished, the “race expo” was all packed up already. No free chiropractic adjustment for me. 😦
  • There were no finishers medals! What?? A distance race without a finisher medal?? I am sad that I did not get a new piece of bling for my “medal tree.”
Bugman and I keep the finisher and placer medals from our various races on a macrame tree my mom made in the 1970s. No Maple Grove Half Marathon finisher medal on my tree, even though I finished. :-(

Bugman and I keep the finisher and placer medals from our various races on a macrame tree my mom made in the 1970s. No Maple Grove Half Marathon finisher medal on my tree, even though I finished. 😦

  • There was zero schwag. The “packet pickup” consisted of the race bib/timing chip. No goodies whatsoever. Not even a course map printout to study the night before. If there were goodies from the sponsors at the expo, I never saw them because they were all packed up and gone by the time I finished running.
  • The course map might have come in handy for many people. This did not affect me, but it did affect about 100 runners: there was a goof in the course marking (some jerk turned a sign the wrong way?) and the lead bike led the fastest runners off course and added up to 1.5 miles 0.5 mile to their distance. This is a race director’s nightmare. You can bet it won’t happen next year!
  • The refreshments at the finish were “meh.” Water. Orange slices. Granola bars. Packs of chips. Bread balls. Basically the same kind of stuff you’d get at the end of a 5K. But maybe there was better stuff and I just missed it because it all got eaten.

Enough with the review stuff! Time for some pictures!

Cooking my pre-race ritual food of steel-cut oats in my mom's kitchen, holding good-luck coffee in a mug that belonged to my grandmother. My mom bought Reese's Pieces for me, too. At Sam's Club. The bag was the size of a small pillow. Thank goodness plenty of relatives came visiting later to help eat them all up!

Cooking my pre-race ritual food of steel-cut oats in my mom’s kitchen, holding good-luck coffee in a mug that belonged to my grandmother. My mom bought Reese’s Pieces for me, too. At Sam’s Club. The bag was the size of a small pillow. Thank goodness plenty of relatives came visiting later to help eat them all up!

Me and Bugman, ready to go! I'm holding a can of food for the food drive. Not only did the race benefit the local Lion's Club, but racers brought supplies for the local food bank.

Me and Bugman, ready to go! I’m holding a can of food for the food drive. Not only did the race benefit the local Lion’s Club, but racers brought supplies for the local food bank. I’m also holding a pair of shrunken woolen socks, which I used to keep my hands warm at the start and discarded at the first water station.

Bugman took a cell phone pic of us on the course. This is maybe around mile 7 or 8. Too bad it was in a random neighborhood and not in one of the lovely wooded glens along the course. Oh well. We are both smiling. Are are also both wearing our Monument Marathon shirts, in hopes raising awareness of the newest marathon in Nebraska, which we are helping plan.

Bugman took a cellphone pic of us on the course. This is maybe around mile 7 or 8. Too bad it was in a random neighborhood and not in one of the lovely wooded glens along the course. Oh well. We are both smiling. Are are also both wearing our Monument Marathon shirts, in hopes of raising awareness of this newest marathon in Nebraska.

Nota bene: if you fly with "save the date" race magnets, you will be targeted for extra airport security screening. The magnets show up as an impenetrable blob on the x-ray and must be examined in person. i recommend putting them in a clear plastic bag and setting them in a tray along with all your liquids. Alas, I only offloaded about 30 magnets. The race was operated by a professional race promoter, so they wouldn't let me distribute anything without paying for the privilege, and the sports stores I stopped in either did not advertise races or did not advertise races they were not sponsoring. Oh well. At least a few of them got out there.

Nota bene: if you fly with “save the date” race magnets, you will be targeted for extra airport security screening. The magnets show up as an impenetrable blob on the x-ray and must be examined in person. I recommend putting them in a clear plastic bag and setting them in a tray along with all your liquids. Alas, I only offloaded about 30 magnets in Minnesota. The race was operated by a professional race promoter, so they wouldn’t let me distribute anything without paying for the privilege, and the sports stores I stopped in either did not advertise races or did not advertise races they were not sponsoring. Oh well. At least a few magnets got out there.

My mom and her husband Bill caught up with us at mile 11. The boost of seeing them (I am blowing them kisses in this photo) helped get me up the big hill to the Maple Grove water tower. I will admit to cussing while cresting that hill. (Who puts a hill at mile 11 in a half-marathon course?!?)

My mom and her husband Bill caught up with us at mile 11. The boost of seeing them (I am blowing them kisses in this photo) helped get me up the big hill to the Maple Grove water tower. I will admit to cussing while cresting that hill. (Who puts a hill at mile 11 in a half-marathon course?!?)

At the finish! At the suggestion of a friend, we cornily held hands as we crossed the finish line.

At the finish! At the suggestion of a friend, we cornily held hands as we crossed the finish line.

Well-deserved "liquid therapy" at home, after the race.

Well-deserved “liquid therapy” after the race.

A cellphone picture of me and my mom at the airport when she was dropping me off to fly home. My mom is an awesome "race mother." She let me cook fish tacos the night before the race, got me my favorite pre-race food, dropped me off at the race and picked me up afterwards, cheered for me during the race, picked me up and dropped me off at the airport, organized a dinner after the race so I could see aunts and uncles and cousins I had not seen in a long time, cooked stuffing and mashed cauliflower for that meal because that's what I wanted to eat after I ran. It's tough to run distance races, but it's easier if you have support. Thanks, mom!

A cellphone picture of me and my mom at the airport when she was dropping me off to fly home. My mom is an awesome “race mother.” She let me cook fish tacos the night before the race, got me my favorite pre-race breakfast food, dropped me off at the race and picked me up afterwards, cheered for me during the race, picked me up and dropped me off at the airport, organized a dinner after the race so I could see aunts and uncles and cousins I had not seen in a long time, cooked stuffing and mashed cauliflower for that meal because that’s what I wanted to eat after I ran. It’s tough to run distance races, but it’s easier if you have support. Thanks, mom!

Well, it’s onward and upward from here! *gulp* Full marathon, here I come…?

UPDATE: I got a very nice email from one of the race organizers, who found this blog through a Google search. It seems only fair to share his comments:

Not to sound cheesy, but we truly try to make this event better and better each year.  So it was good to read your feedback on the race – highlights and lowlights. The biggest thing we struggle with is giveaway items, which you point out.  Myself and co-founder Paul are runners, so we understand how medals and other cool swag is becoming the standard for longer races. We indeed splurge on Brooks technical shirts (men’s and women’s cuts), but run a pretty lean operation otherwise.  Our half marathon has the lowest entry fee in the metro area, and all proceeds got to the local Lions Club (we don’t earn a dime, never have, and that’s the way we want it to be – it’s all about giving runners a great race). Our sponsors have contributed goodies in the past for packet pick-up, but that’s kind of dried up with economic issues of late. Anyway, I don’t mean to spout out a bunch of excuses about our lack of giveaways.  We’ll definitely take your feedback and have things like extra copies of maps at packet pick-up and at the stadium on race day.  We’ll also take a look at having some better food at the finish line – and potentially medals for finishers.
I say “good on ya” for organizing the race. It’s not easy, and I appreciate it!

Copyright 2013 by Katie Bradshaw

3 thoughts on “Maple Grove Half Marathon report

  1. Congrats on your race!! Races are so much more fun, in my opinion, when you have friends and family to cheer you on before, during, and after. I’ve had my bag searched at security due to a foil-wrapped loaf of cranberry-walnut bread, which made me and the security folks laugh when they realized what the solid blob on the screen actually was.

    I think you’ll be just fine for the full marathon (speaking from my vast experience of one full marathon run thus far). If you’re ever looking for a long run buddy aside from Bugman, let me know. I’m running the Monument Marathon again this fall because last year was so much fun (in all seriousness it really was), so will be hitting the pavement a lot in the coming months.

    • Thanks for the running buddy offer! BTW – I heard from Aaron Carrizales that he is planning to start a casual community run group in June for people training for fall marathons. No training plan or anything – just organized camaraderie.

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