Indianapolis Women’s Half Marathon – Indianapolis, IN (September 1, 2012)
Race: Indianapolis Women’s Half Marathon
Place: Indianapolis, Indiana
Date: September 1, 2012
Let me start off by saying that this was one of the most difficult half marathons I have ever participated in. It had nothing to do with the course (which was wonderfully flat). Nor the number of people.
What made this race so difficult was the conditions it was run under.
The Good: It didn’t rain on us. In fact, the rain that the remnants of Isaac was supposed to bring pretty much stayed in Illinois until around 6 p.m. that evening. And even then, it was a passing downpour that was gone. So, my shoes live to see another race. YAY.
The Bad: This race began under a RED flag. For those of you who are new to running or are unfamiliar with the flag system on race day…let me sum this up:
- Green Flag: Low risk. If the Green Flag is displayed – Go, Go, Go.
- Yellow Flag: Moderate risk. If the Yellow Flag is displayed – The heat index is at a point where runners/walkers should slow their pace if they are sensitive to the heat. Participants should be aware of their hydration level.
- Red Flag: High risk. If the Red Flag is displayed – Participants should be aware that heat illness is possible and should slow down and increase their hydration. If they are sensitive to heat or humidity, they should not run.
- Black Flag: Extreme risk. If the Black Flag is displayed – Runners should slow to a walk and walkers should walk very slowly. Stop, rest, seek shade.
So, while the rain held off, the weather conditions weren’t exactly ideal for a half marathon.
The Ugly: Running on a healing torn plantar fascia. Also, running in 90% humidity. Let me tell you…this sucks!! Imagine running and trying to breathe through a wet towel. Welcome to my Saturday morning race. I promise you…this didn’t feel good and it literally took me out afterwards. I’ll get to that later…
For now…we start at the beginning…which was Friday evening at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Indianapolis. Getting there wasn’t a problem, despite not being able to leave early from work. As long as I got there before the race expo closed, I was golden. It felt like a very near thing…but there isn’t much that you can do when more than half your office is already off and both myself and my roommate were pretty much the only people on our respective teams there. So…yeah…meh. The important thing is I got there in time for packet pick-up, which was what needed to happen.
Now, this race is only in its second year, so it is really small compared to most other half marathons I run in. I think the original count for pre-registers for the half marathon was 1799 as of Friday afternoon when I left the office to head to Indianapolis. This does make it the smallest half marathon I have run. But, that’s rather respectable for a second year race. However, I was kind of bummed about the race expo. It just…was a whole lot of nothing. Granted, everything that was promised on the Web site was there, I just thought it was going to be bigger. The expo was spread out over the 2nd and 3rd floors of the Hyatt Regency, but what it consisted of were some vendors in with packet pick-up, then a few scattered tables outside of the giant ballroom that was in. Then on the third floor, a couple other races and vendors were promoting their respective races/merchandise. And…that was it. There were manicures being done and some massages, but that had pretty much wrapped up by the time I had gotten there anyway from the Louisville area.
With that said and done…Cathy and I headed over to Noodles & Company for dinner. We got it to go, opting to head back to the room, put our feet up and relax some while we ate. Now…with me being gluten-free, Noodles & Company pretty much has one thing I can eat. The Pad Thai. Fine. Except I couldn’t get a protein on it. The tofu isn’t gluten-free. And I’m a vegetarian, so the chicken, shrimp, steak or meatballs. So…I was protein-less when it came to dinner, which actually bummed me out…but what can you do? At least it had 76 grams of carbohydrates. And to compensate for not getting a protein, I got a small bowl of strawberries to enjoy as well. And that was dinner. So, very light on the protein, but good on the carbs. It was something at least.
Of course, after eating I was restless and kind of wanted a dessert. So, we headed through the skywalk to the Circle Center Mall. We wandered around for a bit and then stumbled into Godiva. I got an Extra Dark Chocolate Truffle and that was my treat pre-race. Cathy got a truffle as well, then found a place that sold Diet Mt. Dew in the bottle so she could have some caffeine in the morning.
We went back to the hotel to unwind, relax, and catch up on the weather. At that time, they were still predicting heavy rains to make it into the Indianapolis area and completely soak the city for much of Saturday. Meh. So, I decided to lay out my race clothes for the following day. I decided on a pair of shorts and a bra top. Less fabric meant less to weigh me down in the rain. With that done, I set out my race number, safety pins, headband, shoes, socks, and ponytail holders nearby…and called it a night.
And it was a restless night. But I never sleep well the night before a race. Especially when I’m away from home. I just get restless and think too much or worry over things (in this case…Hurricane Isaac).
The alarm went off at 5:40 a.m., but I had already gotten up and gotten dressed. This was more of Cathy’s wake-up alarm, because I was already in my race clothes and just curled up in bed…waiting for her to figure out it was time to wake up. She actually got out of bed faster than I anticipated, so I set to getting myself fed to fuel up for the morning. This meant a bowl of Envirokidz Gluten-Free Amazon Frosted Flakes (eaten dry) and a banana with Justin’s Almond Butter for some potassium and protein. This is my typical pre-big-race meal. I now my tummy can handle it as long as I eat it an hour before I run. Which…was definitely manageable. Cathy ate her breakfast as well and downed her Diet. Mt. Dew to help her wake up. Then, I went to brush my teeth, pull my hair up, get my Garmin and my Road ID on, put on my headband, lace up my shoes, and then go and have Cathy pin my number on.
Problem. My race bib was bigger than my bra top. HAHA! Story of my life. I was going to put on my tank, but then figured I’d just wear my skirt and pin it to the front of that. So, I changed from short to skirt…which I was okay with…because there was no rain falling from the sky yet and it looked like it would at least be out of the area for the duration of the race. So, that wardrobe change wouldn’t affect anything at all. Now that I had a place for my race bib, I was pinned up and ready to run. Cathy grabbed my sign, again because there was no rain, and we headed down to the lobby of the Hyatt.
Plenty of women were milling about, eating, stretching, taking, getting coffee…whatever it was they felt needed to be done. We walked through and found a semi-vacant area where I managed to get some minimal stretching done before Cathy was telling me we should move outside. So…out the doors we went and headed toward where the start line was going to be.
And it was then that the announcement was made that due to the high humidity, the race would begin under a red flag so runners should not aim to set any new PRs or the like on this race. We were told to run smart and to stay safe. And if the flag was changed to black, we were given instructions on what to do and how to proceed. Well, I’ve run races under green and yellow flag conditions. This was my first red flagged one. With the conditions, we were also told that much of the non-essentials had been removed from the course. There were still water stops and volunteers there, but some of the signage and the like had been removed for safety purposes. This also meant the original corralled start by pace wasn’t not happening. Instead, once the road was closed down just before the race, all the women in the half marathon moved up toward the start line (which had a lot of wire strung out over it to register and start bib chip timing), with no sense as to pace. It was just a gaggle of women, of varying speeds, intermingled and strewn out across the road.
Cathy had given me a good luck hug and moved on toward the starting area to prepare for the start. The National Anthem was sung, beautifully, by a group of women (fitting as this is an all-women race). And then…we were all pretty much unprepared but suddenly we were on the run. The blowhorn went off and we all made our dash across the starting line and began our journey through the streets of Indianapolis. Just women…all on a mission.
I was told about 15 minutes after our start the Indianapolis Women’s 5K Race went off without a problem.
But…I was running the half marathon. And due to the fact that I was coming back from a bad, bad injury (a torn plantar fascia in my left foot that literally left me immobile without the aid of crutches for two weeks), I had promised my podiatrist that I wouldn’t break any land speed records. My foot felt great that morning, but I didn’t want to press my luck. I started off at a good pace…probably a little faster than I intended, and that was when the sheer weight of the humidity hit. I wasn’t even a half a mile into the race and I was already drenched. I could tell then this was going to be a difficult one. I just didn’t know how difficult until I got further into it.
The first couple miles I maintained a normal race pace for me, so I had to actually tell myself to slow down. It was early and I still had a lot of race left. I hit the 5K mark at what would be a slow 5K for me, so my reminder did work. I was already starting to really feel what running in high humidity does to the body. I was really feeling tired. It wasn’t fatigue from not sleeping well. I’ve gotten the same or less amount of sleep prior to all my other half marathons. This was the soul-sucking, energy-sapping humidity and it was really giving me a fight. At mile 5, I had to crack open my Sports Beans and take a few with some water (I carry my own water bottle). This helped a little. I felt a little more energized the next few miles. Mind you, I have never had to break into my Sports Beans so early in a race. I normally hit them up around Mile 10. But that wasn’t happening. I needed a boost because I was really feeling like I was losing energy and fast.
It was about at Mile 5 I decided to walk a water stop and take in some cold water the volunteers were handing out. I haven’t walked a water stop since I ran the Chicago Half Marathon a year ago. But given the humid conditions, the fact that I was trying to recover from a bad injury, and that cold water sounded better than the lukewarm stuff now in my bottle, I walked the stop. I drank a little of it, then poured the rest of it over my head. Which was fine, except it loosened one of my ear buds. And then I couldn’t get it back in. So, I just tucked it into my bra strap and carried on with only one ear bud in and my music still going to keep me company on the road. I figured I could attempt to tuck it back into my ear further up the way. Problem was, when I tried…I noticed that the actual cushion on my Yurbuds was now missing, so putting it back in my ear wasn’t happening. GRRR. Oh well…
I noticed a lot of women who were slowing down and walking more than usual at these races. But the humidity was causing a lot of problems with hydration and stomach issues. Many women were getting stomach cramps. Some were not able to keep anything down. Some just needed to use one of the port-a-potties along the course. The gist of this is…we were fighting. All of us doing this race were literally at war with the humidity…and it was starting to win.
At Mile 8, a volunteer on a bike came riding the other way telling all the women running by to make sure they stopped and got water at that water stop. I decided she was right and I should do that. I was already fighting to lift my legs again, so I figured another drink of cold water would refresh me. I poured the rest over my head again and carried on.
Two more miles ticked by…and the race was getting harder and harder. This course was very flat. But the humidity was unrelenting and many women who were being cheered on by their friends/family members along the course were declaring that they didn’t feel to great, despite insistent compliments from their loved ones that they looked great. Around Mile 10, I was heading toward the crest of a very minor incline and on the corner, a man was standing there shouting down the hill at one of the women who had chosen to walk for a moment. In this sort of weather, under a red flag, that is to be expected. He was just harassing her, telling her that she needed to run, that this was a run not a walk, and it was just plain mean. A man walking the other way shouted at him and said, “Hey! Be nice! They’ve come a long way.” The heckler replied, “Fine, I’ll be nice. Run. RUN!” Grrr. I just wanted to smack him upside the head…but I didn’t want to expend any of my energy on him and focused on the last 3.1 miles. That was all that remained. A 5K.
Longest 5K ever. And at some point in the early part of it, my other ear bud refused to remain in my ear, so it was done without music to motivate me through. Let me tell you…it was a struggle. I glanced at my Garmin at one point and saw my pace at 11:54, which I have never run at. That is like…amazingly slow for me. But each step felt like a battle I was losing. I got out my Sports Beans again, though they didn’t even sound appetizing, and downed a few more with some of the water left in my water bottle. By Mile 11, I was doing a little better. Mile 12…I was starting to see more spectators and the extra encouragement always helps on a hard race.
It was also at this point we were rounding a corner to head toward the finish in White River State Park and we were directed around where some Barbeque Festival was going on. Let me tell you…after running in 90% humidity and feeling like (I’m not going to candy-coat this, friends) shit, the last thing I wanted to smell was charring meat. I mean, aside from being a vegetarian, it was pretty much stomach-churning at that point. But, I pressed on and came around a corner, seeing the entrance for White River State Park. I was almost there.
I think it was sheer stubbornness that got me across that finish line in the time I managed. I figured I’d finish more around my first half marathon time (Chicago 2011 – 2:20:51), but with Cathy cheering me on near the finish line, and tons of spectators just making some noise, I pressed on. The announcer said my name as I crossed…and that was that. Race done. I got my race chip deactivated and headed into runner’s services, where I was given my finisher’s medal, a beautiful rose, a bottle of water, and a banana. I waved at Cathy and set my stuff down to get my finisher’s photo taken in front of a backdrop, then continued on to where Cathy was waiting for me. She gave me a hug and we moved away to give other finisher’s and families/friends space to locate each other.
The massage tent was just up the way. So I cracked open my bottle of water, took a few sips, and headed over to get signed in. I was told to head into Line 3, which I did. Cathy dug out my protein shake and then hurried to go check the unofficial finishing times. While she was gone, I was chatting with the woman ahead of me about the race and we both thought the humidity was just enough to do anyone in.
And as Cathy returned…I handed her my protein shake, which I managed a couple of sips from and said it wasn’t sitting well in my stomach. A moment later, I looked over at her and told her I felt really light headed. She told me to lay down and put my feet up in the air. Which I did…and that helped. A lot. After a couple moments, I felt better and got back up. This lasted for a few minutes, and then I was feeling light headed and seeing a lot of black in my vision. So, I laid back down and got my feet elevated again, and remained that way until it was my turn for the massage chair. As my legs were feeling heavy, I asked to have them worked on, which my masseuse did to perfection. She was very nice and kept me talking about running, racing, and other such things. I felt so much better afterwards, drank some water and called my mom and dad as the unofficial results had posted my time.
I meandered back to the hotel with Cathy where I ducked into the bathroom to shower off. Thank God for that hotel stay for another day. I needed a cool shower to really bring me back to life. I took my time…just let the sweat (or liquid awesome) just wash away. I got out of the shower, dried off, and dressed for the rest of the day, which involved sushi for lunch, a visit to the Indiana State Museum, more sushi, rest, and then dinner at The Adobo Grill. For much of the visit to the museum, I felt awful. I managed to get through the three floors of displays and the like and it was only when we were in the gift store that I told Cathy I was ready to leave. I wasn’t feeling good. It was dehydration. Because when I got back up to the room, I got my large bottle of smart water and began drinking that…and I was feeling revived. The second round of vegetarian sushi was an added pick-me-up as well.
So…I managed to make it through to the finish, though the humidity kicked my butt in the process…and honestly almost did me in. But I made it through to the finish and recovered the rest of the weekend.
Official result for the Indianapolis Women’s Half Marathon are that I finished in 2:05:28. I was 236/1416 finishers overall. And I was 46/254 women in my division. Fighting back from injury, walking water stops, and battling the weather made this a bittersweet finish. It’s my second slowest half marathon time…but I felt like I fought for every second of it. And I couldn’t be happier with these results. Sure, part of me wonders what I might have managed had the humidity been better or even walked the water stops…despite having an injury…I think I could have set a new PR. But this was not the race for that. Not under these conditions. And I’m okay with that. I overcame a lot to get to this race and I overcame more to get through it.
And for that…I feel like a winner.