Greetings from O’Hare airport! Eric and I are headed back to NYC after a weekend in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. We’ve got a bit of a layover here, so I think that’s a perfect time for a race report. Right? Right.
Jeri and I have talked for awhile about me heading out to Sioux Falls for the marathon/half marathon. Earlier this year, I had thoughts of running the marathon, as it would be just in time to register for Boston if I ran a qualifying time. After getting injured earlier this year, I realized that running a marathon that quickly wouldn’t quite be safely in the cards for me, so I put that out of my mind. I wasn’t even sure about what fall racing would even look like until Jeri texted me and said I should come out for the race this fall. Yes and yes. It was also nicely timed before the NYC Marathon, so life is good. I registered and away we went! We flew in Friday, which allowed for plenty of fun activities before race day, but we’ll leave that for another post. Onto the race report!
I lied – bib pick-up from the day before, hooray.
The half marathon started at 7am, so we were up and at it around 5:45am, ready to leave by about 6:15am. I ate a banana and Honey Stinger waffle, washing it down with some coffee and lemonade Nuun. Excellent. I also did some MYRTLs before heading out. We drove over the start, which was about 15 minutes away with ample parking. I like how this works, my friends. We parked right near the start and I hopped into line for the port-o-potties. The line was only a couple people deep (even with only five port-o-potties), and I was in and out in a flash. A tad bit different than the giant races I’ve run lately where you’re wondering if the line is going to move fast enough to get you to the starting in time. I’m a fan.
A cold Susan.
A cold Susan, an okay-with-this-temperature Eric.
Sweatshirt is off, let’s do this!
We walked a very short distance over to where the start area was, and I’ll admit it was a bit chilly! It’s been 80-90+ with lots of humidity in NYC for what seems like forever, so a 50 degree morning feels chilly! I’m not complaining – that’s great racing weather, but a little shocking when you’re not used to it! I kept my sweatshirt on until about two minutes to go. Eric took a few pictures where I definitely look cold, ha. I kept my sweatshirt on until about two minutes to go, when I handed it off and jumped into the start area. The race had pacers, but the fastest sign I could see was 1:45, and he was lined up right behind the “elite” people. Interesting. It was a little crowded in the start area, so I squeezed in right around the 1:45 pacer (no need to line up with the elites, I believe), and waited for the start. Half marathon, here we go!
The elevation profile.
I can divide this race into four definitely segments in my mind, so that’s what I’m going to do! When the gun/air horn/someone yelling “Go!” happened, we took off. And the 1:45 pacer definitely took off. It was a flat section in the first mile, and I couldn’t figure out why the 1:45 pacer was going out at 7:15 pace, ha. Luckily, he dropped off within the first half mile to a more reasonable pace (I thought maybe my Garmin was off), and I kept going. I wasn’t totally sure what my plan would be for the race. I was torn between trying to give it a good effort and holding back and keeping it slow. Not being sure what aggravates my groin issue, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to push it or not. I figured I’d keep it comfortably hard and see where that takes me.
The first mile was pretty flat, and it clicked off in 7:45. Oof, I felt like I was working a bit more than I needed to be. I figured maybe that was just some lingering need for my legs to wake up, but wasn’t sure how this race was going to go. Miles two and three had a series of small climbs. Jeri told me that this year had a new course, and it wasn’t nearly as flat as it has been in previous years. I didn’t look at the elevation profile at all, so I wasn’t sure what that meant. (A guy in the expo parking lot gave me a fairly serious rundown, but I don’t know what “30 feet over a quarter mile” means.) But we had some little climbs in miles two and three, and running felt kind of hard. I supposed I should also note that this part of the course has a lot of turns. A lot. I guess that doesn’t totally help. My pace was holding around 7:45-ish, and I couldn’t help but think how ridiculous it was that 7:45 felt SO HARD. I kept thinking how I should just slow down and take it as a training run like I have been running, but part of me wanted to hold on as long as I could, even if 7:45 ended up being race pace. I know I haven’t been doing any speed work or even any sort of mileage above what is necessary, but 7:45 shouldn’t feel THAT hard. I wasn’t sure what this race would hold…
Mile splits: 7:45, 7:38, 7:49
Well, immediately after those climbs, we got some really, really nice down hills. Which is fantastic because although my pace didn’t change that dramatically (leaning more toward 7:30’s than 7:40’s), it felt so much easier. My legs take awhile to warm up, so I think they finally did, and they had the help of the down hills which opened up my stride bit. We ran through downtown Sioux Falls, which was pretty fun to see since we hung out there the past two days. Some crowds were out to cheer, which I always enjoy. Lots of people with signs! Mile 4 clicked off in 7:33, and I felt so much more comfortable. Definitely like I was working, but comfortably hard. I’ll take it.
Somewhere downtown, the satellites on my watch got all wonky and Garmin was telling me I was running 5:30 pace. I mean, I knew I was opening up a bit, but bhahahhaha, no. The down hill parts were great because they were obviously down hill enough to give you a nice boost, but not steep enough that I felt like I had to put on the brakes at all. Most excellent. We ran toward Falls Park, which was downhill all the way. Two spectators were out in their lawn chairs and robes, sipping on coffee – that seems like a great way to cheer in the morning! A guy I was running near asked them if they had margaritas in their mugs, ha.
We wrapped up the down hill portion by running through Falls Park, where you cross a bridge over the falls, which I thought was pretty cool. There’s a bit of an uphill to get through to the other side of the park, but nothing too major. Still feeling good. I started eating some of my energy chews around mile 5 – throwing a couple in my mouth when I would see a water station coming up. No real rhyme or reason, just making sure I took something in because I traditionally hate eating on the run even though I know I need to. (Especially for a marathon – the half marathon is more so for practice than a need for actual fuel.) I grabbed a couple sips of water at some of the stations, mostly getting it on my shorts instead of in my mouth.
Once we got through the park, we ended up on a bike path/pedestrian path along the Sioux River. It’s a really nice path, and it’s what I picture all runners in Sioux Falls doing their long runs on, ha. (I like to think about how the locals live when I run in new places, even if it’s totally wrong.) The path was down along the river, and a bunch of bridges loomed over it for people to cheer from, which I thought was cool. It was also flat, and who doesn’t love that? We left the river a little bit before the halfway mark, but I think we were still on the bike path. Just more park-like and more trees. And still flat!
I tried to keep my pace even and strong. It was pretty spread out, but now and then I would catch up to someone. Lots of runners seemed to be talking about changes to the course and other parts of the race. I passed two runners who were talking about the t-shirts – they were apparently the talk of the town this year! They’re pretty basic – cotton and a bit boxy. The runners were saying how embarrassing it was for runners to come from out of town and get this terrible t-shirt. (“At least they were long sleeve last year!” they said.) I suppose it’s kind of true – I’d like a fun shirt if I travel to a race, but oh well. They also said how they were looking forward to the turnaround because the sun and wind would be at our backs – but the other runner mentioned that we’d have to face the hills we just ran down. True story, my friend.
Mile splits – 7:33, 7:26, 7:38, 7:31
We made the turn to head back to the stadium (where the start/finish was) right around mile 7. Getting past the halfway mark is always mentally great for me – just repeat what you just did, never mind the fact that you’re more tired than when you started! We turned over the river across a cool little bridge, getting into the park on the other side of the river. We followed a sidewalk path through the green space, which was really nice to run on. The runners were right – it was really nice to not have the rising sun in my eyes anymore, and the slight breeze was at our backs. I tried to not think about the hills that awaited in the later miles.
I felt myself picking up speed a little bit, but I told myself to hold it back a bit. Six miles to go is still a long way, especially since I haven’t really been running very fast lately. Keep it strong and steady – seemed to be the theme of the race! I felt really in control and comfortable in a “I’m running faster but it’s okay” way. It’s a pretty good place to be. The park was pretty sparse as far as spectators go, but three girls were out on their bikes with signs, and they yelled, “Bike rides! Five dollars!” I laughed as I ran past them, and they yelled, “We’re just here to make people laugh!” I wanted to see if they were barter for the five chews I had left in my bag, but I figured they wouldn’t go for that.
I felt great in mile 8, and hoped that would carry on. I keep thinking that I just needed to get to mile ten, then it would just be a 5k to the finish. It seemed like a good way to break up the miles. I came through the eighth mile marker in 7:16 (yikes!) and got ready for mile nine. We had to go back up the hills we ran down, and that started in mile 9 – alright, here we go! My plan was to keep the effort even, not worrying if my pace dropped a little. The hills were nothing too crazy, but definitely required a little more work to get up. I took my final chews in mile 8-9-ish and threw out the rest of them – I’d been carrying them in my hand in a plastic bag, and I was tired of holding them. Plus, eating chews in the final miles probably isn’t going to help much!
As a note, I definitely did not do a stellar job at water stations. I got a lot of water on my shorts/legs. I always try to get my cups in trash bins, but I totally missed a toss at one water station. At another, I tried to grab a cup out of a volunteer’s hand – he looked away right before I grabbed it, and it went flying out of his hand as I tried to grab it. Oooooops. (But thanks to the volunteers – you were all great!)
Mile 9 seemed to last forever. I knew I’d feel better mentally at mile 10, but it seemed to take so long to get there! It’s about where I start getting antsy in a half marathon. What are the last miles going to hold? Am I going to be strong? Am I going to fall apart? So many questions. I just kept pushing. After climbing in mile 9, we got more flat/slight downhill in mile 10, and that was a refreshing break for a final push in the last three miles. The real test begins!
Mile splits: 7:16, 7:27, 7:15
As we passed the ten mile marker, I remembered those hills we climbed in the first few miles, and looked forward to going down them this time. We were rewarded with a really nice downhill in mile 11 – clocked my best mile of the race at 7:06 and I passed a girl I’d been chasing for a bit. Counting down the miles, just get to the finish. We ran through the historic district somewhere in these miles, and the houses were beautiful. Nice work, Sioux Falls. After I flew down the big downhill, I caught up to a man who told me to go catch the girl in front of me. She was wearing purple shorts, and she hadn’t been too far in front of me for the entire race, but she was definitely holding strong. I’m not good at actually racing other people, and I didn’t want to gun it and run out of steam. I figured it would be pretty flat and I started counting down the minutes. Fifteen more minutes, Susan, don’t lose it now.
We ran through some flat, asphalt-y areas for the final two miles. Nothing too exciting other than each step is getting you closer to the finish. The girl in the purple shorts was definitely holding strong, and my legs were getting tired. (Can I get another downhill here, please?) It stayed flat, which is definitely better than a climb. It was all about holding on at this point. We finally entered the parking lot that led to the stadium with the track finish. We looped to the other side of the stadium, and finally entered the track. We had 300 meters on the track to get to the finish. Eric was right at the entrance, so it was good to see him after 13 miles! I haven’t been on a track in years (oops?), so I guess that was cool. At least you know EXACTLY how much you have left! With about 100 meters to go, they said, “And here’s Sara Pass coming in!” Not my name, my friends. They were also announcing where people where from – I thought New York would earn me a shout out, but it did not. Oh well. I pushed it a little bit just for the sake of it, saw Eric with 50m to go, and crossed the finish line! Excellent.
Mile splits: 7:06, 7:23, 7:25, 0:41 (6:17 pace)
Entering the track – someone analyze my stride!
On the move around the bend!
Looking happy in the final stretch.
Making weird happy faces to the finish!
Shirt + Medal
I crossed the finish line and got my medal placed around my neck. (I love that part.) I stood for a little bit until I realized I was right in front of the finish line video camera – oooops again. Eric came over pretty quick, which is a nice perk of a smaller race! I walked to get some food/beverages. I’ve gotten sick after my past couple half marathons, so I wanted to make it a priority to eat and drink someone. Powerade and half a bagel it was! We wandered for a bit before heading over to the entrance to the track to see Jeri finish. Watching people come in was interesting – one girl entered the track and immediately yelled, “Where’s the finish??? Where’s the finish??” ……….on the other side of the track? haha. The marathoners started earlier than the half marathoners, so we saw the first place marathoner come in – he ran 2:38! Crazy. We watched Jeri come in, then hobbled over to the other side to catch her in the final length.
We got Jeri some food and found her family, then thought about heading home before we realized awards would be soon. Jeri was convinced I might place, so we hung around for the (delayed!) award ceremony. They had a timing glitch, so they hand wrote age group awards – definitely missed the mark on that, as third in my age group ran 1:28 – speedsters showed up! haha. Jeri got a massage while we waited around for awards and then we headed out!
With Jeri and medals post-race!
13.1 miles in 1:38:03, avg pace of 7:29
Overall Place: 81/1139 – Top 7%
Gender Place: 25/700 – Top 3.5%
Age Group Place: 11/141 – Top 7%
I DON’T KNOW WHERE THAT CAME FROM. ha. I did a four mile shake out run the day before, and running 8:15 miles felt hard even in 50-something degree weather. I panicked about what the race would hold. I seriously considered just taking it easy and using it as a training run. That probably would have been smart (maybe?), but I don’t race much, and I like to actually try and push it when I race. Why not? The first few miles were tough, and I definitely thought about throwing in the racing towel and thought about what my running would have in store for me – maybe my years of speed are over. I felt more like my old self when I was able to push it a bit. Much more effortless in movement, but felt comfortably hard. And holding on at the end, staying strong through some hills. The cooler temperatures definitely helped all that, which I’m very thankful for. I didn’t go into this thinking I’d be anywhere close to PR shape (1:31, not happening!), but I’m appreciative of a solid effort and that feeling of RUNNING that I love so much.
My calves are painting a bit of a different picture today, and (luckily?) I’m working a lot this week, so that will force me to not run much for some recovery before final build up weeks to the marathon.
As for the Sioux Falls Half Marathon in general, I think they put on a good race! I appreciate how it’s not very big compared to what I’m used to running, and walking right up to the start and seeing your spectators right after finishing is pretty cool. I don’t know what the course was like before, but I think the hills were challenging enough to mix it up and keep it interesting, but not a killer while you’re actually running them. Definitely manageable enough to give yourself short goals to push through. The course was pretty through downtown, Falls Park, and the bike path. A couple of less attractive parts to get you from the stadium to the other parts of town, but not so bad. The volunteers and crowds were great! If you knew your way around, it would be easy to get to a bunch of different spots on the course to cheer. (The website was over bandwidth for a majority of race morning, so Eric couldn’t pull up the map at all to see where to go – of course, we could have figured that all out beforehand, but kind of annoying on race day.) Lots of aid stations with peppy volunteers. I’d recommend the race! Can’t comment on the marathon portion, but I think they put on a good half. (One should note that it’s not perfect 50 degree weather every year…)
Overall, I really enjoyed the race and my experience while running it. The time definitely didn’t hurt either!