Monday, April 29, 2013

Finish on the 50

Yikes! This is my pre-race pic?
We have been looking forward to this race for a few months now. I am so glad we all decided to run and was even surprised we would know quite a few people running one of the four races all to Finish on the 50!

Matt and I arrived at 6:30CT so we could find parking and check-in. I quickly realized this was the most disorganized race I have run to date. We pulled up our names on a laptop then were "assigned" a race number by one of the volunteers, it was a bit strange. We headed over to find a spot in the sun on the corner where the Toomer's Oaks were recently removed. There were not very many people around yet and if my race number (#404) was any hint, it was not going to be a huge race anyway.
I kept my eyes peeled for anyone I might recognize, hoping I would find Emily my "old" Auburn friend. Instead I spotted, easily, Leigh and Diane two fellow runDisney enthusiasts I've met through Twitter and runDisney Facebook boards. Then Ramona found us and it was great finally getting to meet her in real life, which was nice since we had run the same races but never actually met before.

The Half Marathon was supposed to start at 7:30CT and I don't think we were finally off an running until 7:38. We couldn't really tell what was going on then everyone just started running, no announcement or music or anything. Spectators cheered, as did runners of the other races, but my favorite was the Auburn Swimming and Diving team cheering in front of Samford Hall!

The runners headed down College Street crossed in front of the Auburn University campus before turning to run down Gay Street and through residential neighborhoods towards Wright's Mill Road. There were plenty of rolling hills and a water stop around Mile2, but it's hard to say because there were ZERO mile markers and I was going by my NikeGPS App (since I forgot my NikeGPS watch).

When we got to the turn at Chewacla Park, there was a water table with cups and a huge tub of powder Gatorade but no volunteers. This was a crucial point since runners would be running past this table twice. There was no huge cooler of water and there were no cups on the ground, leading me to believe this station was just never fully setup. Luckily there was a small pavilion with a water fountain if runners were really in need, but I didn't want to stop.

We headed back along the same rolling hills of Wright's Mill Road and I felt very strong. I decided to really try to watch my pace, hoping to stay between a 11-11:30mm pace in attempt to run this entire 13.1 without intervals. I shouldn't compare myself to others, but it was really encouraging when I passed other runners. It was especially encouraging when I passed other runners as I felt strong running UPHILL. We continued to backtrack and passed the same water stop that was Mile2, maybe around Mile 6+ on the way back. Huge kudos to volunteer at the intersection of S Gay Street and Woodfield Drive, we passed him twice and had the very important job of directing 10K and Half Marathon runners to the split in the course. On my way back through, this same volunteer was also photographing runners!

While there were arrows helping guide runners throughout the course, color coded arrows for each race might also be helpful since parts of the course overlapped for the different races. Mile markers would have also been very helpful throughout the course, as I was asked by few runners wanting to know mileage.
Half Marathon
Another huge shout out to the Auburn Police during this race! They were very attentive watching for oncoming runners and halting traffic accordingly. There were four really important locations... 1. As runners turned off College Street at the beginning of the race. 2. As runners crossed the I-85 Wright's Mill Road overpass and the police were only allowing cars in one direction at a time. 3. As runners crossed the E University Drive intersection. 4. When the runners crossed back over College Street from residential neighborhoods heading back onto campus.

Once back on campus, there was another water station. I think it was fairly close after we crossed back over College Street but I'm not exactly sure if it was there on Woodfield Drive or if it was after we turned onto Donahue. This had to have been somewhere Mile8 and Mile9. If I had known there wouldn't have been another water station until Mile12, I probably would have stopped and chugged more than one half dixie cup of water.

We turned down Lem Morrison and I was really surprised to find so many buildings I didn't recognize from my days at Auburn. I wracked my brain trying to remember if this road even existed back then, fully knowing if it was it was not developed or utilized a decade ago. This same road curved and then became Mell Street, and buildings started to look familiar again. I ran past the Arboretum and then as I was passing the President of Auburn's house is when it really hit me, I was going to set a new personal record. My pace up to this point was excellent and I still felt strong and  only time would tell by how much my new PR would beat my last, set on March 17 of 02:36:17.

I got ahead of myself. I don't think I started running faster. I don't think there were more hills, yet. I could see the stadium but I still had another 3 miles to run. My mouth was dry, I needed water. I willed myself on, knowing a water station would be soon. I mentally kicked myself for not knowing the course better because I could have asked Matt to meet me on Tatch with a bottle of water, but the race organizers never posted where or how many water stations there were along the course and I had trusted they would be prepared. Mile 11 was downright awful, I caved and did a few intervals. I realized my thighs were chaffing a bit from my shorts riding up and so was the inner section of my left arm, both consumed me as we hooked onto W Magnolia Ave (or as I knew it, "Old Frat Row").

Finally at Mile 12 there was another water station. The volunteer was enthusiastic and gave me a fist bump for running for the Boys & Girls Club of Auburn, but I told him I was going to hang out a bit. I ended up chugging SIX dixie cups of water. The volunteer was nice and sprinkled some Gatorade powder in two of my cups. I was drained but I proceeded onward. Wire Road seemed to be a slow and steady uphill before turning onto Samford to head around the football practice facilities. I'm sure I drove this road many times in my years at Auburn but I never realized their was a crazy hill as you continue on Samford toward the intersection with Donahue. Wow, a brutal hill at the end of a Half Marathon is brutal. I no longer felt strong, I just wanted to move fast enough to still PR.

Looking back, I think I was more defeated than I let myself believe because I was just on survival mode. How do I know? I have zero pictures or screen captures after that 10 Mile screen capture. I didn't even send Matt a text message to give him an update I was getting close or even entering the stadium. They weren't looking for me, but Matt said my mother-in-law spotted me on the field. I finished. I set a new PR. I got my medal and felt like I was scavenged for refreshments. Someone pointed me to a huge tub, and I actually had to dig through lots of empty bottles until I found two. I stepped off the field and completely downed the first bottle of water. Matt and family walked to me and we took a couple pictures, I think. I recovered enough to spot Aubie and start heading his way, only to learn he left! HUGE sad face.

I asked about Matt and Abigail's race. Matt was so proud of her! He said she started out very timid, wanting to hold his hand but then after watching the other kids run with their families she caught on and decided to run too. I honestly wasn't sure if she would run or not, she didn't want to run at all during The Royal Family 5K in February and "ran" just about the entire race on Matt's shoulders. This course was shorter and she didn't have to be up nearly as early for this Fun Run!
Fun Run

Finish on the 50 Fun Run
Matt took lots of pictures during their run and even got video of Abigail's Finish on the 50!

Abigail couldn't wait to show off her medal to Aubie! She even told me Aubie kissed her medal and picked her up. Hopefully it wont be another 3yrs before we get our next visit with Aubie.
We headed out of Jordan Hare to get to the Tailgate Party at the Transportation Center. I saw a couple lines of people, and had to ask what was going on. Runners were supposed to be able to look up their finish time but there was some sort of error and none of the times were posting. There was another line to pickup race shirts around the side of a van and they were out of all the sizes we needed. Luckily, the ladies behind us in line were trading their Women's Medium for a Small so I was able to get my correct size. Abigail ended up with a Women's Extra Small and she's going to wear it as a nightgown. The only Men's size remaining was XL so we had to put his name on a list for reorder. The was no signage and I did see some Powerade, I never figured out how to get additional refreshments and we decided to just leave and head to lunch.

On our way to lunch Matt told me before his race the runners were being told some of their volunteers were missing in action. Unfortunately, there was more lacking than just volunteers. I should have remembered this was the first year the Half Marathon was being offered, and I should have been more prepared. I should have worn my fuel belt with my own water and I should have run with some GU or Clif Shot Gel. I still do not know how I forgot to run with fuel, but then again I forgot my watch at home too. (Sigh.)

While this was my FORTH Half Marathon, it was definitely the smallest. I'll chalk a lot of it up to a learning experience for me and while this race was still lacking in a few areas, I am still really happy that I was able to set a new PR. It was amazing to run through the city of Auburn and the campus, because when I was in college I thought the sororities who hosted races as fundraisers for their philanthropies were out of their minds. Now here I am 10yrs later and I couldn't be more thrilled to drive in from out of town to run/race here. I hope we'll be able to Finish on the 50 again next year!

I am not sure if it would be possible, or if the race organizers had already reached out, but it would have been pretty amazing if some of Auburn's organizations were present on the race course or helped at the water stations. Ideally, this race could work with Auburn's Student Government to allow the different organizations to earn spirit points if they have members running, volunteering at water stations or set up cheering sections along the courses. This "2013 Finish on the 50 will benefit Student Affairs for programming for intramural sports, group fitness and club sports for the student body" so it would only be fitting for the organizations to also be more involved on race day.

It seems like there are plenty of people unhappy with many aspects of this race but I hope they realize it's still a newer race and decide to register again in future years. The course was great, the organization with the city seemed to be great and if a few campus organizations would step up to assist, this race would be absolutely perfect.

-Have you ever Finished on the 50 yard line of a race?
-What do you do when you run a race that is not organized as well as you hoped?

1 comment:

Emma Jemma said...

I agree the organization was not great, but like you, I still enjoyed the race. There are a ton of opportunities for Auburn to support it and make it a wonderful tradition...I hope they do!! Finishing in the stadium was very cool :-D

Another good race (my PR to date) is the Auburn Classic Half in January...that one is run by AORTA, but will still be a smaller race. That's the one that really brought up all the memories for me!

Was cool to see you and hopefully the next race we run, i won't have 4 hours to be back in HSV, haha!!