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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

500 Festival Mini-Marathon 2011

Last July, Todd and I were enjoying our first anniversary in Little Cayman when our friend Ellen suggested that we run the 500 Festival Mini-Marathon, and stay with them for the race.  A couple of days later, she told us that the race in 2011 was scheduled for May 7, which happens to be Todd's birthday!  Todd was up for it, so soon after, we went ahead and signed up.
Todd and me at the Expo
We flew into Indianapolis on Friday at about 1:30 in the afternoon.  Matt and Ellen picked us up from the airport and took us to the Expo right away.  It was a pretty decent expo, with the usual cast of characters.  Goodie bags included a hat and a shirt, which was nice.  I don't have that many hats, so I'm happy to have a new one!  We headed to Matt and Ellen's house in Kokomo, Indiana (about an hour or so outside of Indy) and Ellen treated us to a delicious pre-race pasta dinner.
Tons of people, with the starting line WAY
in the distance.

Race day was Saturday.  We were up at 5am, and headed down to Indianapolis to the starting line.  The race was to start at 7:30am, and we were in my corral by 7.  Todd was running with me rather than on his own, so he joined me in my corral.  It was crowded.  In fact, CROWDED is the best word to describe this entire race.  Even though us East Coasters generally haven't heard of this race, it is the largest half marathon in the US, with 35,000 registered.  Given this, the start area was very well organized.  It was easy to find and get into our corral, and the fireworks at the start were impressive :)  It took about 22 minutes for us to get over the starting line from Corral Q, which I didn't think was too bad.

My favorite part of the race?  The 500 beach balls that were thrown into the crowd at the start of the race.  I loved this!!  It gave us something to do while we waited, although we did get bonked on the head a couple times.  Then, they disappeared all at once just as fast as they appeared.  Weird.

Let me take a tangent here.  I want to complain about the name of this race.  I don't understand why it isn't called the "500 Festival HALF Marathon."  Why did they decide to call it the "mini?"  First of all, I think it diminishes the accomplishment of running the race, since "mini" sounds cute and easy, and 13.1 miles is formidable.  Second, I had to explain to nearly everyone that this was a half marathon and it was indeed 13.1 miles long.  13.1 is a standard race distance, and as such the race should be called a half marathon.  This annoyed me for the last 10 months and I am happy to finally get it out of my system.  Ditch the name Mini, and call it a half marathon like everyone else.
At the starting line
Anyway, I had no goals for this race.  I wasn't feeling as in shape as I could have been, since I took 3 weeks off to go to Indonesia in January/February and then I took two more weeks off in March/April for my leg surgery.  I've felt sluggish and slow ever since my surgery.  So, I decided to name no goals and just see how I felt on race day.  With the temperature being in the 50s and the sky being overcast, the weather was excellent and in mile 1 I was feeling pretty good.
There were 500 Beach Balls at
the starting line!

We were doing 1:15 and 1s, which is unusual.  Up to now, I'd always done 1:1s for half marathons, even though I train at 1:30 and 1s.  After my 2:33 at the Lehigh Valley Half Marathon last year, I decided that I'd about reached my limit of how fast I could go doing 1:1s and thought I'd test out something new.  It went fine, no complaints.

The course was super-flat.  I thought this would be a huge advantage, but it really wasn't.  The lack of hills was made up for by the crowds of people.  And I mean CROWDS of people.  Weave, weave, weave.  Up on the curb, down from the curb.  Since I do Galloway, I have to stay near the edge so that I won't get run over in a crowd, and this meant that on a four lane road making a turn, I was swinging WAY out of my way to make the turns.  I spent the early part of the race weaving and weaving and weaving.  It stunk.  I was keeping a good pace, and I decided to stick with it, since at the pace I was going I was going to set a new PR if I could keep it up the whole race.  I chose not to mention this to Todd.

During mile 6, we entered the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  This included the only real hill going into the Speedway, but going into the Speedway was also very tight and it made it even harder to weave through people.  Passing mile marker 7, I had lost almost all of the early gains in time that I'd made, and I hadn't even gained any real recovery because of the weaving.  This annoyed me, so mile 8 was a good one.  The course also really opened up as we passed through the yard of bricks.  I'm not really a car racing fan, so this was exciting, but probably not as exciting as it would be if I was a fan of Formula One.  Still, very cool.
Entering the speedway
Exiting the Speedway, I finally let Todd know that I was on PR pace.  However, I was really starting to doubt if I could keep the pace up for the whole race.  Outside of the Speedway, the road narrowed down to one little tiny road, and it was very crowded.  I was too tired to run on the side of the road as I'd done earlier in the race in order to pass people, and the weaving and passing had really sapped my energy.  I truly had no idea how tiring it is to run in a race that is this crowded.  It was very disheartening.  Also, the amount of people that STOPPED or TURNED SUDDENLY in front of us was just amazing.  One woman actually ran into Todd head on.  So annoying.
Coming down the Yard of Bricks
We were heading back towards downtown, but I was really feeling worn out for miles 10, 11 and 12.  I was doing my best to keep my pace up as much as possible, because this is my only half marathon for 2011 and I wanted to make it good.  Plus, I'd kept such a wonderful pace for the first half of the race. 

The last mile, I was just trying to finish.  I was feeling pretty worn out, but the sun started shining right as we headed down the "Victory Mile" (Mile 13).  We crossed the finish line at 2:34:21, 44 seconds slower than a new PR.  Still, pretty good considering the set backs in training that I gave myself this spring.

I can't help but feel somewhat depressed over my time, anyway.  Even though I know that the weaving in the crowds was difficult and I know that vacation and surgery made my training less than it was a year ago, I still feel like in the year that I've had since Lehigh Valley, I should have been able to pull out a new PR.  I don't plan on running another half marathon this year, so my next opportunity to PR will be at the Walt Disney World Marathon Relay in January (another crowded course...).

I did  have a good time for this race.  It was awesome to come out and see our friends, and it is always fun to run a race in a new city.  
With our medals on at Matt and Ellens house.

After the race, Matt and Ellen took us to our friends Bill and Gerry's house in Indy.  Bill and Gerry are friends whom we met in Little Cayman.  They also got married there!  All of had a lovely lunch at Zest.  Zest was even featured on the Food Network on Monday night!!  Ellen is friends with the owners, so we got to meet them.  I'm actually pretty disappointed that Zest isn't in Baltimore, because it was very good and I'd love to try it out again.  I guess we're going to have to go back to Indy!
Cupcakes for Todd's birthday!
I was so wiped out after lunch that we headed back to Matt and Ellen's.  We watched a movie for Todd's birthday, and then on Sunday we Geocached.  We also got to see the World's Largest Sycamore Stump!  And - hold back your excitement - The World's Largest Preserved Steer.

Alas, it was time to go home, and we headed home on Sunday evening.  We had a great time in Indiana.  I would recommend this race.  For its size, it was incredibly well organized - even better than the much smaller Rock and Roll Philadelphia.  It had excellent crowd support, and an interesting course.  It was just very crowded, so manage your expectations there.


lindsay said...

cute cupcake flag! congrats on the half! i have a friend who loves that race.

44 secs off a pr -- and you've been through a good bit these past few months w/ vacation and surgery. you are in great shape to be so close to a pr!

marathonmaiden said...

so close to that pr! just think about what you'll do once you're fully recovered from vacay, surgery, etc. that's great racing :)

tangent continued: i've always heard mini marathon in reference to a 10k. really for a half here? interesting.

Kandi said...

That's awesome that you came so close to your PR after your reduced training and with all the weaving. I'm sure you ran longer than 13.1!
I have a friend who ran this race a few years ago. He's a huge indy car racing fan so it was right up his alley.

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