October 24, 2012

Go Commando Half Marathon, October 20, 2012

Expo: We stopped by the expo on our way back to Alabama on Friday morning. It was held in what looked like a brand new building.

The building had this cool runner art out front. Very fitting for a race expo!

There were several rows of booths to browse, and many were giving out trinkets, including free bottles of 5-hour Energy at one of the booths.

The race committee was giving out free Go Commando posters. I love their new slogan. "Go Commando. Shoes required." It's pretty much the twins' motto, except for the shoes part. 

It took zero minutes to pick up my packet and race swag -- just walk up and grab it. All of the volunteers were very polite and efficient, and they even had me double check to make sure my shorts would fit OK. I loved that! How many times have you walked away from a booth to then realize that the swag doesn't fit? Mostly I never go back to ask to swap.

Carb loading: There was probably a negative need to carb load after my week of cupcakes for breakfast and one meal per hour in Chicago. But what good is a race if you can't carb load? None. So I did.

I thought I ordered the large sandwich. Yes, that is a standard-sized take-out box. 

But that sandwich was not the only inspirational thing at Schlotzsky's that day. 

If my dreams could be airbrushed on the back of a truck, they would look just like this. Sparkle letters and all. 

Travel and parking: After driving back from Chicago and spending five minutes hugging kids and repacking, I headed back up to Kentucky to spend the night before the race. Clarksville is an hour and a half away from my in-laws' farm, so I left at 5:30 a.m. to head to the start line.

Getting ready the night before the race.
There was no traffic at all, and once you got to Clarksville, parking was a breeze. I parked in some free street parking a block down from the parking lot they advised us to use. The recommended lot was getting pretty full, so that's why I made the switch to some other parking I had seen on my drive through town. There were plenty of free parking options. 

Pre-race vibe: My first order of business after parking was to bolt to the nearest bush or port-o-potty. At about 30 minutes until race start, the toilet lines were kind of long.

That just means time for more pictures. This one was not even posed. That's just my usual port-o-potty stance.

I waited about 15 minutes to use one of them, which fortunately left plenty of time to head to the start two steps away. The start line this year was on Riverside Dr., which is a wide road aptly named being right beside the beautiful river and all. People at the race were typical Tennessee friendly, and I made conversation with people in the potty line and at the start line.

Milling at the start line.

And I even met some blog readers!

Me, Veronica, Kathryn

If I remember correctly, this was Veronica's second half marathon and Kathryn's first race ever!

Steve, Yo Momma

And Steve dominated his first half marathon. He was going for sub 2, but instead got 1:48. I saw him again at the turn-around, and he was smiling and had enough energy for a high five. Always a good sign!

The race: This was another slow starter for me. I couldn't actually see the start line where I was standing, but I think it was too far up. I should have positioned myself better, so from the take-off, I had a lot of weaving to do. I may have almost run over a small child or two as I was trying to pass on the left. Sorry, little adorable Clarksville children.

I expected more hills in the start of this race than the finish, but they were pretty even throughout. Meaning, there were hills throughout the course.

There was one stretch of flat in the middle and at the end, which oddly felt harder than the hills. Maybe there was something about running flat after running hills that felt weird on the legs. It's also possible that it was the wind that made it feel hard. There weren't as many trees to block wind on the flat segments along the river. Not sure what it was, but it felt like the flats went on forever. At least with the hills, there was something to attack. This race almost made me a hill lover. Almost.

Also part of the course was an out and back. From mile 4 to the end, you run over the river and into the countryside (or over the river and through the woods, if you're into Christmas), and then you turn around and run back to the finish. I thought I wouldn't like that we doubled back, but I didn't mind it. The area that we doubled was beautiful, and it was nice to see some familiar faces (from when you met them five minutes earlier) on the home stretch to the finish line.

The police men and women who helped direct traffic were really amazing. They had our backs the entire time. Once I saw a car try to pull into the path of runners, and the police officer standing there was not happy about it at all and gave the driver the what for. Also the water stops were every couple of miles and felt perfectly spaced for the nice cool weather that day.

Oh, the weather. I could write a love song to the weather because it made my heart sing. It was chilly enough for a light jacket before the start but perfect in a tank and shorts once you started running. There was just that bit of wind to contend with, but no rain or blazing sun. Weather, I loved you, but not in a creepy Bella-Edward way.

Because this race is near Ft. Campbell, you see a lot of military people representing. This year, one of my favorites was Marc Dibernardo, a US Army staff sergeant, running in full gear. I can only imagine the thoughts that kept him moving forward under all that extra weight.

He was even nice enough to lean in for my picture. Not easy to multitask with running in full gear. 

And here he is at the finish. Could someone please get him two chocolate milks? He earned it. 

But he isn't just running to look tough, though he totally does. In an interview (full interview here), he said, "Folks always come up to me and ask me why I race the way I do. That simple question opens the door for me to talk about my causes. If I can make just a couple of folks at each race aware of how they can help or assist [veterans], then the sweat and effort is completely worth it." If you want to help, check out Team RWB.

Some other cool finishers were the gas mask wearers. One finished without taking it off.

Even though this next guy took his mask off at some point, I'm still impressed that he carried it and that pack the whole way. And for the record, I couldn't wear the mask for five seconds standing still, unless there was an actual emergency. Add claustrophobia to my list of disorders. 

Now this next one is my kind of finish. Run while carrying a toddler (or twin toddlers) -- that I can do and have practiced many times. This guy makes me think I should take my talent to the race course. 

They also announced at the finish line that 50 soldiers in Afghanistan were shadowing our race that day. 

This race is like a mini MCM for me, but without as many marines and with way more underwear jokes. But seriously, I love the military representation at this race, and every year, there is some point when I tear up during or after the race because of the military folks.  

My race: This race was a confidence builder for me. Because of my recent injury, I wanted to test my foot to make sure I could hit speeds that I needed to without falling apart. So even though I had at one point decided just to enjoy this race, I then changed my strategy to a racing one. It also helped that I had a lot of foot resting in Chicago the week prior to the race, which helped me justify taking it a little bit faster. 

My splits ended up looking kind of insane. 

Miles 1 and 5 were the only ones that looked like I wanted them to look. The rest were a little all over the place, but with hills, I let go of having even splits. Mile 4 had a lot of downhill, which I don't mind running faster. The total mileage being high tells me that I need to be careful of placement in Savannah. I really need to get in the right position from the start so that I don't have to do all of that weaving. I want to just be able to stay on pace from the beginning. Sometimes that's easier with corral starts, but not always. I just want to waste zero energy on that day. 

And my left foot felt a little sore after the race. It didn't help that I had to drive a stick shift all the way back to Alabama, but once I got out of the car and iced, my foot was back to normal again. 

The greatest part was that I was not extremely (muscle) sore after this race, so even though I felt like I worked hard, my soreness levels tells me that I could have pushed even harder. It's fine with me that I didn't take it to my edge, and I'm happy to know that I can still move fast (for me) and not fall apart.

Post race: After the finish I had a hard time finding all of the snacks. Eventually I asked someone carrying a banana, and they told me to keep walking to find the snacks. It was a bit of a haul down the river walk to the finish-line party, and by the time I found my way down, they were out of chocolate milk. I might have cried. But there were other delicious foods to make up for it. I love that they made us little plates of food, so that we didn't have to reach down into a vat of orange slices with our grubby snot wiping hands to pull some out. 

I also got to hang out for a minute with Brian (who won the Go Commando entry giveaway) and Annie. They finished the race together (like with matching strides) with a strong sub-2 finish. They didn't even look tired at the end!

My favorite part of the post-race party was definitely the free massages, which they called post-race stretches. Whatever you call it, I loved it. 

I was waiting around to see the results because they had cool jackets for people who won awards. But there was a glitch with the timing chips. With a 1:43:21 finish time, the preliminary results had me at first in my age group and 43rd overall. If I look on the site now, I'm still listed as first in my age group but 54th overall. So it looks like some people didn't register as they came over the finish line. Luckily my time registered from the start. 

On that day, the race director made the executive decision to wait and send out awards when they were finished verifying all of the finish times. I was a little bummed because I was cold and wanted a jacket, but I understand that they wanted to double-check everything, which they said they could do with all of the finish-line photos. 

So no awards ceremony by the river that day. But because I waited, I got to see our friend Steven who did the 5K that morning. 

To all the people I made stand next to me in photos, sorry about the extreme salty temples. Maybe next year I can take my bathroom sink shower before the afterparty. 

Yes, in that picture I am wearing my throw-away jacket that I found in the exact spot I left it at the start line -- an added benefit of a small race where you park close to the start/finish line. And an added benefit of an ugly jacket that no one wants to steal. 

Because all of my race self portraits are chin (or ears) up, here's the race-day ensemble for the two (would be three if my mom had the internets) of you who are interested in seeing that. 

Oiselle team tank, Oiselle Bum Wrap skirt,
Pro Compression orange socksPunkee Love adjustable sparkle headband

Race swag: This year, they gave out black shorts (called ranger panties), which I might actually wear. I made sure to get a bigger (i.e. longer) pair of shorts this year.

Dog tag-ish medals.

More swag. I love the "I Go Commando in Clarksville, TN" window cling. Probably going on the front window of my house. There was also a day pass to the Y, which I probably should have used for a shower.

But I need your help. See that circle with a dip in it in the middle. It is kind of sticky and rubbery. What the heck is it supposed to be? Seems like it must have a purpose, but it's too small for a coaster and too weirdly shaped to not be something specific. What do you think it is? It's advertising LegalShield if that helps (it helps me zero). 

My son voted the paper/foam airplane the best swag I've ever received.

Overall: I love the military aspect of this race! It's always inspiring to see the military people who come out and run fast while wearing full gear and gas masks. And they aren't just running to prove how awesome they are (which they are pretty dang awesome) but to honor other soldiers. I also love that the race has a gorgeous backdrop of the river and the mountains/hills. The new route this year was much better than last year as far as logistics of maneuvering people from the start and onto the course. I also appreciated running the streets of downtown (cool to see if you are from out of town) and the flat finish to the end. There were some hiccups with the timing, but I think the race director made the right call to wait and verify times before handing out awards to people. She promised to send them out this week, so I'll let you know when I receive mine. If you want a smaller race with lots of heart and a gorgeous setting, this one is for you. Also if you want to honor someone who serves/served our country with your run, this is a great place to feel right at home.

Disclaimer: Go Commando provided a free race entry for Yo Momma Runs. I received no other compensation, and all thoughts and opinions are my own.