Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Being the Hare

I've come to grips with the fact that I'm never going to win a race. I don't do it for winning - I do it because I enjoy doing races particularly in a new place. That being said I've gotten progressively faster. My first half marathon in 2006 was in 2:35. My PR in April was 2:02. My first 5k was run in 29:50. My PR is 26:00. You get the idea. After shaving nine minutes off my half marathon PR in April, I decided I should break the two hour mark this past weekend. It didn't quite go as planned...

That's me - on the right.
On Sunday I ran the Dexter to Ann Arbor Half Marathon. I'd heard great things about the race, so I thought it would be a good one to try. My husband was out of town at a golf weekend, so I thought it would give me something to do. I have to admit I missed having my support system/paparazzo there.

This race was impeccably organized. It was one of the most well organized races I've ever done. There was lots of communication beforehand - I got tons of e-mails.  I went the day before to pick up my packet at Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor. I wasn't expecting a lot from the race expo, but there were a lot of exhibitors with local race info and great deals on gear (especially skirtsports, one of my favorites). The race shirt is pretty adorable too.

Yes - it's this cute.
Saturday morning I got up at 4:45 to get ready to drive to Ann Arbor (it's about an hour from Lansing). The race organizers suggested racers get there by 6:45 (the race started at 8:30). I was there right at 6:45 and easily found parking in downtown Ann Arbor. There was a line of school buses taking racers out to the start in Dexter.  The start was at Dexter High School which was nice because we could wait inside (it was slightly chilly) and also, more importantly, use the bathroom inside (it's the little things). Unfortunately I got to the school around 7:20, so I was waiting around for over an hour. One of the biggest downfalls to being bussed to a start is the wait.

The race started promptly at 8:30. In my goal to break the two hour mark I lined up right with the two hour pacer. I learned this is the first year this race had pacers, and for me they were both a blessing and a curse. The two hour pacer was very gregarious and had a great attitude. The race started and it was VERY crowded. I had several people nearly trip me because we were packed in so tightly. It started to thin out a little after the first mile, and I felt so good that I decided to leave the two-hour pace group behind. Hence my being the hare in this race review.

I was pushing HARD. There were clocks at every mile marker, and by consulting them and my watch I determined I was running about 8:20-8:30 miles for the first six miles. That's very fast for me. We ran through downtown Dexter, a charming little downtown, around mile 2, and I was pushing so hard that I couldn't even appreciate it. 

Downtown Dexter. Looks cute, but I barely remember it.
The course was hillier than I imagined. It ran on Huron River Drive right along the river. The views were beautiful, but as I got to about the 10k mark I realized I wasn't enjoying it. I was pushing so hard that what I love about a race - appreciating the scenery, interacting with the crowd (even though there weren't a lot of spectators) was passing me by. I was also pushing way too hard so I decided to slow down.

The views were pretty, but I have to admit it was a little boring. Lonely even. I like energy and spectators. Thankfully there were water stations at every mile in the second half, so there were spectators at the water stations. Around mile nine the two hour pacer passed me by. Quickly. I generally run too conservatively at first and have a huge kick at the end. I had the opposite experience in this race.

This was much of the course only during the day and not at sunset.

At mile 11 the 2:05 pacer came up, and I was determined to stick with him even though my legs were screaming. The last mile was up a hill onto Main Street in Ann Arbor. There were finally crowds and lots of energy, and I was pushing so hard to get to the finish that I didn't even really notice it.

I love downtown Ann Arbor. It has everything a vibrant city should have. It has leveraged its anchor institution - the University of Michigan - beautifully. On a random weekend you'll find downtown bustling with people. Even though I finished downtown in a great city, I was too tired to enjoy it. I slowly walked back to my car and headed home.

Downtown A2

Even though we ran through downtown Dexter and finished in downtown Ann Arbor, the race was decidedly rural and didn't really highlight what makes the Ann Arbor area great. In all fairness I basically knew this going in. While the course was beautiful, I'm not sure I would do this race again (even though it was very well organized). I need energy!

The final verdict? 2:05:33. In April I knocked 11 minutes off my previous PR in a 2:02 run. I thought I would be stronger this time, but it goes to show that slow and steady generally wins the race. Turns out that damn tortoise was right.   

How would I rate this race? B (I loved the organization. The course was a little quiet for me.)

How would I rate Ann Arbor and Dexter? As for both (even though the race didn't highlight them as much)


  1. I noticed your post on Dexter-A2 facebook page. I too ran this race last weekend, but thoroughly enjoyed the run. I live and run in a rural area so it felt like home to me. I like low key races rather than all that energy. I like to absorb my surroundings when i run. The wait was a bit much but I was with a friend and we ran into someone we knew from home so it made the time pass quickly. I like your blog!!

  2. Thanks for your comment. I thought the run was beautiful, but when the tough gets going, I need a crowd to help me through it. :) So glad you like my blog. Happy running! (especially in this heat)