Hi everyone! I am so excited to tell you all that I survived half marathon #3! It was a crazy experience but I’m happy I did it. But let me start from the beginning: The Her Tern Half and Quarter Marathon is an all-girls race put on by the running store in Anchorage, Skinny Raven Sports, as well as its sister store, Her Tern Boutique. The cap is 1,000 girls and they also let in one man known as the “One Lucky Guy” which is voted on by HTH participants. I knew that this was going to be a great first race in Alaska and I loved the idea behind an all girls race with great race swag. Finishers got a designer bracelet instead of a medal, although they didn’t release pictures of it until closer to the race and I wasn’t sure how I felt about the design.
Before I get into this, I want to remind people that I was not really fully trained for this race. I’d been having some awesome long runs for a while and was beginning to feel so confident about getting a PR at this race, until I got sick a few weeks ago and missed my 9 miler. Last weekend I was still feeling really weak and sick, so my final 10 miler was switched to only 6 miles – and those were pretty slow and hard. So I didn’t really know what to expect on race day. But I woke up Saturday morning excited for our mini-vacation in Anchorage! My friend Amanda was running the quarter marathon, so she drove with us from Seward to Anchorage. As soon as we got to the city we ate sandwiches for lunch at the Great Harvest Bread Co. and then headed over to Skinny Raven Sports downtown to hit up the expotique! There weren’t many people there around 12:00, so we walked right up to get our packets. The race had personalized race bibs, and we also got a reusable bag and a race shirt from Brooks.
The best part was that our race packets came with 3 gift certificates: $10 for Nathan Hydration, $25 for Brooks, and $50 for a shoe purchase at Her Tern Boutique! The only one we didn’t use was the Her Tern shoe one because they only sold crazy expensive shoes. Bummer. But the expotique had a Nathan booth set up, as well as tons of Her Tern Half merchandise made by Brooks, so we had a blast deciding what to use our gift certificates on! In the end I got a HTH branded Nathan water bottle, and a HTH tank from Brooks for only $12 total.
The expotique only took up about 1 street block but it was still a lot of fun. My favorite part was the race banner with all the participants’ names on it! I was so excited to see my name up there!
Before we left we shopped a bit at Skinny Raven and I noticed that there are a ton of fun runs and races going on through the store. It made me so excited to move to Anchorage and meet some running friends! We also hit up the cheer booth, where I decorated this insanely accurate sign:
Yes, that is a donut running in the corner! Brooks totally gets me and my food obsessions. After the expotique, we did our usual round of Anchorage shopping since Seward only has one grocery store and it’s so expensive there. We bought stuff to make baked ziti for dinner as well as post-race cinnamon rolls. We were lucky enough to be able to crash at Amanda’s friends’ house for the night, and it was awesome being able to cook in a normal kitchen again!
The next morning I woke up super nervous and feeling sick. I hadn’t slept much and had even cried the night before because I was so scared of how the race was going to go. I always feel underprepared for races, but the fact that my longest run was 8 miles was terrifying. After my usual pre-race oatmeal breakfast, I got ready for the race and we headed off to the rose garden on the Delaney Park Strip. Amanda’s quarter marathon started at 9:20, so both she and Andrew were able to see me off at 9:00! One important thing to note about this race is that they have an early wave, which starts at 8:00. On the website this race was advertised for girls who estimated their finishing time to be 3 hours or longer, and getting the early start would ensure that they could enjoy the post-race party. It sounds like an awesome idea, but as I lined up with all the “fast” girls at 9:00 I started to really get psyched out. In fact, within the first mile I was seriously one of the last people running, and I did it in a 10:16 pace! It was totally demoralizing to be at the back and know that I was still going too fast for my race plan. The best part about the first 2 miles is that I ran alongside a girl who was running her first half marathon ever, and we ended up chatting about life in Anchorage for a while until she needed to take a walk break. For the next 11.1 miles I ran alone as usual, although many girls I passed/who passed me were friendly and I had a few fun conversations along the way which almost never happens!
The course was really pretty, and it got me so excited about running when I live in Anchorage! When I’d looked at the course map and saw that the race took us all the way across Anchorage and back, I was confused as to how they were going to shut down so many roads. But it turns out that Anchorage has a large paved trail system, and the trails go under and over roads to stretch all the way across the city! There were times when we were running near neighborhoods and busy roads, but most of the time we were running through a beautiful, silent forest. And most of the trail was flat too! Whenever it went uphill it was to cross over a highway, and I knew that there would be a downhill on the other side so I kept running. I slowed my pace down to about 12:00/mile and told myself that I could speed it up after the turnaround point at mile 7. Once I got there I noticed that there were very few people running behind me, and it messed with my head for a mile or so until I remembered that a lot of the slower runners had actually started an hour ahead of me and I wasn’t at the total back of the pack which gave me a boost. At mile 8 I started to think about the possibility of a PR and meeting my half marathon goal of 2:30. I was so close in my last half, and I wondered if I could do it this time even without fully training. And for a while I was actually on pace to do so! I was hitting sub-11:30 miles and passing people with a smile on my face. But around mile 11 I started feeling really tired. I thought about taking my last few Sport Beans but didn’t really want to stop and add time, so I decided I would power through the last 2 miles without the extra fuel. And I think that, along with my lack of long runs, was what totally killed the race for me. In mile 12 I completely shut down – I’m not sure if I hit a wall, but I was definitely done with running. My legs slowed down and my brain stopped working and I felt like I couldn’t control my feet anymore. I usually manage to speed up at the end of a race no matter how tired I am, so this new feeling really scared me. I was hunched over and everything hurt and thought I was seriously going to have to walk to the end.
As I came around the corner with 0.5 miles to go, I saw a long hill up to the finish line and actually wanted to walk away. But then I saw my friend Amanda a few feet away! She ran along side me cheering me on and giving me encouragement until I got to the bottom of the hill. I’d told Amanda I was going to walk the hill, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it with all of those people cheering me on. So I started sprinting (which in all honesty was probably actually a slow jog at that point) and I ran into the One Lucky Guy. He looked at me and said “Kristen, you can do this! You are about to finish!” and ran up the hill with me. Amanda told me he’d been doing that for all the runners after he finished which was so awesome! And I did finish – in 2:33:59! Only 4 minutes from my goal time and over 3 minutes from my PR. Given my training I will call that a success!
I stumbled through the chute and got my race bling, and then expected to get water or a bagel or something. But it wasn’t there. And I was delirious and had no idea what to do. After stumbling around for a while I finally found a table with tiny cups of water on it which made me so upset – all I could think about at the end of that race was drinking a bottle of water! After chugging 2 small cups I felt well enough to look for Andrew and Amanda, who graciously led me to the cupcake tent before making me talk to them. After eating a tiny gourmet cupcake I realized there were no other post-race foods like bagels or bananas. I was dying, so I forced myself to eat 2 more cupcakes until my sugar level was up enough to walk around and stretch without passing out. Amanda told me she ran the quarter marathon in 1:03 which was really awesome, and we took some time to celebrate with mimosas and pictures!
Honestly, at the end of the race all I really wanted was a medal and a bottle of water, but the bracelet isn’t too bad. I’ve been wearing it since the race and while I don’t know how much wear I’ll get out of it, I still think I can hang it on my medal hanger, right?
Overall, I’m glad I did this race. Even without a PR or hitting my half marathon time goal, it’s amazing that I was able to get so close to my PR time. I felt so stressed during training with all the things going on in my life, and getting sick just made it worse. But it was cool to see that my body still can get through those miles, although not as well as I’d hoped! Will I do it next year? Maybe, but probably not. All the fancy girly stuff ended up just annoying me in the end – I’d rather get actual normal race food and water at the end and have a medal instead of a bracelet that I probably won’t wear too much. Plus, having all the slower runners start first made me one of the last few people to cross the finish line which was rough. There are other half marathons in Anchorage and I’ll probably try those before I do this one again. But I loved the race atmosphere, the friendly and supportive runners, and the cheering fans so I’m glad I made this my first Alaska race!
Have you ever totally bonked at the end of a half? Did you ever surprise yourself with a finishing time? Would you rather get race jewelry or a medal?