Sunday, May 26, 2013

On the Run: Stony Creek "Back to the Beach" 1/2 Marathon 2013

Last Sunday I ran what turned out to be probably the most fun - and challenging - race I've ever run.  It was held out at Stony Creek Metropark, which is an absolutely beautiful park with beaches, biking and hiking trails, kayak rentals, etc.  It's about an hour drive from my house but I was drawn to the race because of the trails.  "Back to the Beach" isn't an all-out trail race - it's more of a mixed-media race with dirt, gravel, asphalt, grass, and paved city streets - but with Tough Mudder coming up at the end of June, I need any trail practice I can get!
The weather couldn't have been more perfect - 60's and sunny at race time without any wind to slow me down.  This was my first race of the season that I didn't have to over-analyze what I was wearing.  Shorts and a tank top?  Yes please!  And because so much of the terrain was trail I broke out my Brooks Adrenaline ASR trail shoes (for only the second time ever, haha).  These are some sweet *ss trail shoes!  

So I was all pumped up and ready to go, right?  Um, yeah except for some reason I was super nervous about the trails and had a terrible stomach ache.  Oh no!  By the time I was lined up and ready to start, however, I was feeling less nervous as I decided to just do the best I could do.  I had no expectations for myself and just wanted to enjoy the run.

I'd been warned to take it easy for the first 2 miles of the race and I quickly realized why.  We started out on the grass and than headed into the woods.  The first 2 miles were all trails, and hilly trails at that!  My time on those miles were slower than I'm used to running but I kept a pretty steady pace all in all.  It was beautiful in the woods and such a nice change from the city streets that I'm used to running on.

After that we broke out of the woods.  We were still in the park but on asphalt so I was able to pick up the pace and make up for lost time.  And yes, chick a few dudes.  The course actually left the park for a couple of miles and took us out through a neighboring city, along some city streets, down a long boardwalk, and eventually back into a wooded area of the park.  By this point it was about halfway through the race.  I remember because I passed some race volunteers (a.k.a. Beach Bums) who let me know that I was the 6th woman.  This is when I went from having no expectations for myself to vowing to pass at least one woman to come in 5th.  The odds of me getting an age-group award were pretty good at that point!  But I still had 6 miles to go and I knew there was a big hill at mile 8.  Still I picked up the pace a little. 

And that's when I bit the dust.  I tripped on a tree branch and dove face first on the ground.  Luckily it was on the wood chips so it was soft and no one was right behind me to trample me.  In fact, I was up and running again before anyone could pass me.  But it cost me precious seconds and I had to catch my breath while trying to get running again.  But there was no time to rest.  No time to survey the damage.  I stop for nothing.  On I went.  And before I knew it I was passing the 5th place woman!  I felt unstoppable!

Soon I came upon what has been dubbed the 8-Mile Holler. This is a very steep gravel hill that is a prime cheering area for family and friends - hence the "holler".  It was a tough hill, especially because of the gravel, but I just put my head down and pushed up it.  Cold wet towels were being passed out and I used them to clean off my dirty hands from my fall.  Going down the other side was sweet relief and I knew the worst was over, even though I still had 5 more miles to run.

After this we ran on paved bike trails, which was smooth sailing for me.  I chicked a few more dudes and could see two more woman up ahead of me.  In the last 2 miles I was starting to get pretty tired, though, and didn't think there was any way I could catch them.  At some point I should have stopped for water or Gatorade and was wishing I had something with me to eat.  Too bad bananas aren't easier to carry with you!  I was bonking.  But I was almost done.  I pushed myself a little harder.

I managed to pick up the pace in the last mile.  It helped that more people were around cheering me on.  Someone handed me a lei.  Next thing I knew there was Brian.  And then I saw the finish line!  I finished strong and was told I was the 3rd woman.  I couldn't believe it!  I've never done so well in a race.  I talked to another girl who said she was told the same thing.  I figured she was the 2nd or 4th.  Then I saw the results.  She was 3rd.  I was 4th.  She beat me by a TENTH of a SECOND!  She was 1st in our age group.  I was 2nd.  She beat me by a TENTH of a SECOND!  Remember how I said my fall cost me precious seconds?  Yep, there ya go!  Oh well.  I'd be more upset if this was the Olympic trials.

I was so pleased with my time and most importantly, I HAD FUN!  This race is amazing.  It's a beautiful course and it's well-organized from start to finish.  Everybody who runs gets tech shirts, medals, and pint glasses.  Along the course volunteers were passing out water, Gatorade, Gu, and cold wet towels.  Afterwards there were oranges, bananas, bagels, granola bars, and Pop Tarts (I snagged one for Brian).  The age-group award is actually useful - it's a lunch bag!

If you're looking for a fun and challenging half-marathon, I'd definitely recommend this one.  I already can't wait to run it again next year.  My expectations for that race?  1st place, baby!  By at least a tenth of a second!


Vanilla Chia Pudding (this recipe, minus the cocoa), banana 

Beatnik Beach / The Go-Go's 
Summer of '69 / Bryan Adams  
Chop and Change / The Black Keys  
Beanbag Chair / Yo La Tengo
  Designer Drug / Mayer Hawthorne
Machu Picchu / The Strokes
I'm Shakin' / Jack White
Honey in the Sun / Camera Obscura
Bulletproof / La Roux
The Violet Hour / Sea Wolf
Never Wanted Your Love / She & Him
Do It Anyway /Ben Folds Five
Take Me Anywhere /Tegan & Sara
Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You) / Kelly Clarkson
  What Happened to the Sands / Pas/Cal
Sunshinin' / The Vines
Let's Get Out of This Country / Camera Obscura
Can't Hold Us / Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Mercy / Duffy
Miami / Will Smith
 Hell / Tegan & Sara
Love the Way You Lie (Ft. Rihanna) / Eminem
Never Go Back / Grace Potter & The Nocturnals
So Good / B.o.B.
Misery / Maroon 5
Gold on the Ceiling / The Black Keys
Bright Side / Otto Vector
E.T. / Katy Perry

Upcoming races:  
Novi Memorial Day 10k - May 27th 
Flirt with Dirt 10k - June 8th 

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