Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Kings & Queens Half Marathon Race Recap

Normally when looking at potential races, I pass over anything that's longer than a 10k. I'm just not that interested in doing longer distances. But for some reason when I looked at the website for Kings & Queens Half Marathon I was intrigued. Judging by the location of the race, I knew it would be hilly and I liked the idea of getting a glass of champagne, rose and cookies at the finish line. So I decided to sign up!

A gorgeous finisher's medal was another race perk!

This was back in December. Since my back injury took me out of quality training for two months, I knew I would end up using this race as a long run, rather than a race. I think it was totally the right decision. 

During a typical Saturday morning long run, I start around 9:25-9:30 pace. I am not a morning runner and my legs never want to get going in the AM. It's also like they sense I'm going to make them run something in the double digits so they purposely refuse to move any faster. Since this is the norm for me I don't really stress it - I know I'll be at a sub-8 min pace by the time I'm done. 

So given my mega slow morning legs, Coach Matt told me I could start the race around 9:30 pace since I wasn't racing this one. I ended up starting with the 9 minute pace group because I saw my friend Megan leading the group. So I lined up next to her and soon enough we were off!

I stayed with the group for about a mile before moving ahead on my own. I just kept on running at a super easy but steady pace and soon found myself with the 8:30 pace group. I figured I could run with them for the rest of the race but was forced to move ahead when I kept getting pushed into the road area (the streets were not closed during the race) and I was worried about getting clipped by one of the cars zooming past. So I surged a bit til I was in front of the group then kept on going. 

Miles 1-6 went by pretty fast and I felt great. For someone who is used to running 5k or 10k pace, running even slower than marathon pace during a half marathon race felt super easy. I was having a lot of run taking in the pretty trail scenery and all the birdies I saw flying around - cardinals, finches, robins, etc. I didn't even mind all the hills - in fact, I looked at them as a fun challenge. After all, taking on the hills was one of the main reasons I decided to do the race!

I was all smiles during the majority of this race!

But shortly after I hit the 6 mile marker I began feeling a bit sluggish. More than anything I chalk it up to a mental block. I couldn't believe I still had more than half the race to go and just wanted to finish up and be done. I kept thinking that if I was racing a 10k, I'd be kicking it in to the finish! I tucked in with a group of about six women and ran with them for a bit. This helped a bit but I ended up losing the group when I decided to walk through a water station and drink a cup of Gatorade and a cup of water. 

It also seemed like the hills were never ending by this point. My friend Christina summed it up pretty well by commenting after the race that it seemed like there were five uphills for every downhill. I even remember stopping at the bottom of a hill and looking up and saying out loud "You've got to be kidding me!" 

You would think the flat sections would be a welcome reprieve but they were their own challenge. One flat stretch was super sunny and I remember feeling like I was majorly overheating. Other sections were straight into a strong headwind (winds were gusting up to 25 mph during the race).

Fortunately once I hit Mile 10 things took a turn for the better. At this point I told myself there is only a 5k race left. That sure helped a lot! Instead of plodding along like I had been for the past few miles I picked up the pace a bit and focused on chasing down people in front of me. And finally it was the last mile. Then the last half mile. Then the last quarter mile and I picked it up to about 5k pace and kicked it into the finish line. 

Finish line in sight!

I was really happy with how this race went. I knew I wanted to keep the effort pretty easy since I'm in the middle of a bigger training segment and I think I succeeded. It helped to start with the 9 minute pace group and then slowly work my way up. It was also great to get to run a hillier course than anything I would run by the lakefront. A change of scenery is always welcome :)

Post-race with friends Bettina, Richard and Christina!

Up next is a 5k in two weeks, then the big one, Bellin 10k, in a month!

My questions for you:
  • Do you prefer flat or hilly races? Do you ever seek out races specifically for a challenging course?
  • How do you work through mentally tough moments during a race?
  • What's your favorite way to celebrate after a race?

Even though I technically didn't race this one, I still indulged in a post-race mimosa and a delicious breakfast including an egg scramble, hash brown casserole, a biscuit and gravy, and plenty of coffee!

- ST


  1. Great job on the run! I consider anything where there is a start / end a race. :) But then again you a much more dedicated runner than I am.

    I did have technical difficulty in mind when I chose the Junk Yard Dog 50k trail run last summer. I knew it would be a challenge and I was excited to run it.

    I usually melt like a marshmallow on a hot summer day during tough moments. I just try to keep putting one foot in front of the other and chop the remaining distance into distances I can relate to.

    Great job. Glad you had fun with the race.

    1. Thanks Bob! I think one of the best things about challenging courses is that it removes the expectation of running a particular time. At least for me, I view it as more of an adventure and an opportunity to see what I can do. So less pressure and more fun :)

  2. First awesome job! Sometimes running is a mind thing, and sounds like you got your share of mind games to work through around mile 6, but you did it great!
    Amazing job!!!
    I knew I liked you, I love hilly courses and I actually prefer a challenge.
    In fact in all the marathons I've done, I do my best to avoid flat courses, I find them too boring. It's not always possible especially back east, but when I can, hills are a lot more fun to run and train!
    Great job, in what sounds like quite a tough race!!!!

    1. Thanks Kristy! Around the Midwest there really are not many opportunities to run hilly courses so this was a treat. I'll definitely consider running it again next year :)

  3. Great job! I hope to someday be as fast as you, Sun! I've been running hilly races lately and have another hilly half next week, but I like flat races for PR attempts. I have yet to find a good, non-boring flat half course, so I guess hills must keep me interested! I work through tough moments by thinking about how much worse it would be if I walked ha

    1. Thanks Elizabeth! I always think I want a flat course for a PR attempt but I think I run best on a course that includes a few rolling hills. Nothing crazy but like you said - something to add interest :)

  4. You rock girl! Those never ending hills sounded tenacious but glad you came out all over, very rewarding. Nice job!

    1. Thanks Rachel! It was a great race and I think the hills just added to the fun :)