Race Report: Unplugged Half Marathon 2017

First race of 2017 done!

When I came into 2017, I had planned on making Unplugged a focus event for the spring but then life got in the way and it ended up being a workout/rust buster/engine check. My A goal was to break 1:30, my B goal was to be under 1:32. My (unstated) C goal was to finish and not get injured, which was not a forgone conclusion. I came in at 1:31:54 and felt pretty good, so mission mostly accomplished!

Despite living and training in Burlington for many years, this was my first year really running Unplugged. Until recently, it fell on Boston Marathon weekend and I was either running or going down to spectate or in the midst of VCM training. The race is truly unplugged; no awards, just water on the course, few spectators. All of this sets up for an awesome opportunity to get a good workout in without too much stress.

I was excited to have a chance to get a marker for moving forward for the Asheville Half and a fall full, but I was even more excited to see my dear friend Abbey who is my running buddy/confidante extraordinaire who was coming back to Burlington to race. Warming up with her and standing on the start line was enough to make the whole day worth it. She went on to kick ass and I can’t wait to work towards our next running (and life) goals together.

On race morning, the only piece I was worried about was the weather. The forecast called for snow, rain, windy and high 30s which is a tough temperature to dress for. While the mountains got anywhere from 4 to 9 inches of snow, Burlington was relatively dry but the start was COLD. I warmed up in two pairs of pants and two coats and for the first time ever, planned to race in full tights. Will tried to convince me to do a singlet and arm warmers but since he wasn’t at the start and I was being wimpy, I put a long sleeve on under my singlet which would ultimately turn out to be a big mistake.

The gun went off and we had a mile of out and back. I eased into the race and tried to resist the urge to chase after people. The first mile was distinctly uphill and conversely, when we turned, the second mile was downhill. I tried to stay in control but ended up running 7:03 and 6:49. I’m not sure if this second mile ultimately bit me in the butt but I did have to remind myself that I didn’t have the fitness to run that whole race in the 6:40s. The first few miles of the race had multiple turns and full circles through neighborhoods and it was hard to get into a rhythm. Miles 3, 4 and 5 were 6:50, 6:54 and 6:57. The 6:57 was the mile where I had to strip off my undershirt, a feat I accomplished without losing a step or falling down.

After mile 5, we turned onto the bike path and I was able to cruise a bit. Since the race started at 11, I was pretty hungry by the time we started and took my gel shortly after 6 in hopes that it would stave off a bonk. This seemed to work and Miles 6 and 7 were 7:02 and 7:03. I threw my gloves at another friend at mile 7 and was collected but definitely starting to feel some quad fatigue and quickly shed the idea of pushing the last 3 miles in favor of just staying consistent.

Mile 8 passed quickly in 7:03 and mile 9 was the downhill mile in 6:54. I was starting to get some confidence back after this but when we crossed into Waterfront Park, I came to what felt like a complete stop with stomach cramping and the worst GI distress of my life. I can generally tolerate gels without too much water but since I went into the day a tad dehydrated, I expect it sat like a brick in my stomach. I limped through mile 10 in 7:04 (no WAY was this race worth a GI disaster) and just hoped I could hang on for 3 more miles. Mile 11 passed in 7:07 with waves over the Causeway ala VCM 2013.  At least this time, the wind was at our back! Mile 12 was a mess and I alternated between smooth running and stomach saving pace, ending up with my slowest mile of 7:16. I was able to collect myself and ran mile 13 in 7:06 pace. I failed to stop my watch after crossing so have no idea what the last .1 was but I just tried to stay smooth and didn’t do much of a kick.

Is it easy to be excited about my second slowest half ever? Not really. Am I thrilled for the effort it took to accomplish my B goal? Yes! I have had a tough season of training and to be able to run a 1:32 comfortably off essentially no training is something even I have to begrudgingly be proud of. The best part, however, is that it left me hungry for more. I want to get back to being 10 minutes faster, to chasing that sub 1:20 and my Olympic Trials qualifier. I want to push my fitness forward. Onward and upward!

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