The Belle Plaine Scenic Byway Half Marathon – Race Recap

Some might call me a wee bit crazy to run this monster just a week after my fastest marathon ever. And that might be true. But I did have a legitimate reason for running it. Well, kind of legitimate.

One of my goals for 2104 was to become a Half Fanatic. I had planned to do a streak of half marathons in May and June. But the ol’ stress reaction kept that from happening.

Instead, I took a closer look at the race calendar at year’s end and realized I could still make it happen. I had already run the Women Rock Half Marathon at the end of August plus already had the Monster Dash scheduled for late October.  But in order to qualify, I’d have to run one more. There was one on the calendar that I have done for the past 2 years and I would love to do again because it is so grueling. And as you all know already, I’m a glutton for punishment. In order to become a half fanatic, I’d have to run this sucker a week after my marathon.

In the end, I decided to play it completely by ear…or um…feel. It would all depend on how I felt the week after the marathon. And it wasn’t until Thursday night that I actually pulled the registration trigger. I was pretty darn unsure of myself for this run.

My husband was actually egging me on to run this. He really wanted to come along, but something came up with my kids last minute that kept him home. It is a beautiful but hilly course and I ran it better last year than the year before, probably because I knew what to expect the second time around. Each time I’ve gotten first in my age group. Probably because it just isn’t that big of a run. In 2012, there were 177 runners, last year there were 142 and this year just 125. I think some may just not wish to torture themselves for another year…yeah. It is that tough.

Friday night I was fortunate enough to get to bed early, thanks to my husband who played chauffeur to the kids that night. It wasn’t the best night of sleep thanks to all the interruptions, but it was enough. And I didn’t have to get up at an unGodly hour either, since the race had a 9:00 am start time. As it was, I misjudged how quickly I’d get there. But I just hung out in my car with the seat heat on up until 15 minutes before race time.

Hot Air Balloon

Hot Air Balloon

I forget each year how beautiful the drive is to this race. It is west of where I live and it is all back roads to get there with an amazing view of the river valley. It is high enough that the valley fills with fog, and with the clear skies and fall colors above, makes for a spectacular view. I wish I had stopped for photos, but as always, I’m so anal about getting there on time despite my super early departure. I did catch glimpse of a hot air balloon getting ready to depart for a morning ride!

It was a crystal clear, cold, Minnesota morning. I woke to 27°. but it was 31° when I arrived in Belle Plaine. This time, I just wore long spandex pants and a long sleeved Under Armour thermal jacket, with a dri-weave tank below. I didn’t fool around. I also had my fingerless gloves (the ones with the optional hand covers) and hand warmers. Plus, my Brooks headband with ear covers, and sunglasses. I parked so close to the start line I was able to just keep everything I needed right in the car. With an 8:15 am arrival, I gathered my bib and shirt, plus my goodie bag and headed back to the car. At 8:40 am, I took my Energybits, and got all my stuff together for the run before heading to the porta-potty and then to the start line.

Race start temperature

Race start temperature

The race actually begins a few blocks away from the finish line. The morning sun sure helped to warm it up a bit. I was amazed at the number of folks in tanks and shorts. I wish I had the circulation they have to keep myself that warm while I run.

I also saw a few older folks there this year. By “older” I mean my age. LOL! It was a great sight. There was also a young father pushing two of his children in a jogging stroller. Gosh, did I wish him the best. This course is hard enough just getting yourself up the hills, let alone a stroller!

There are just a handful of spectators on this course, so I opted to listen to a podcast or two on this run. It would keep me occupied as I tried to ignore the hills.

Before I knew it, we were lining up and ready to start.

Start Line #Selfie

Start Line #Selfie

We run around the neighborhood for about a mile before heading into downtown Belle Plaine, and then off around the byway which circles the river. It really is a gorgeous run. They don’t close the road off to traffic, rather just warn the town about the run. So, you have to pay attention to the cars because they are out there and they don’t necessarily give you a lot of space.

Elevation Profile

Elevation Profile

According to my Dailymile data, the elevation difference is about 200 feet. And its a pretty significant climb to the top. Then at mile 7, it lets go, and you descend the full 200 feet before climbing a tortuous number of mini hills until the finish. It takes smarts to tackle the hills, and I was upped by a few who were fast on their feet ascending the hills, just to pass them by on the way down and through the straightaways. I really worked to save my energy for the end of the run.

Since I have this route programmed into my Runmeter, it was great to hear the voice say at the half way mark,” Halfway Achieved” because then the guessing could end and I could just start to open it up.

And I knew I had a great pace going because I hit 8 miles at the hour mark. And that is where I fueled with my next dose of Energybits.

Never once did I feel I overdressed. The only stress I had was trying to negative split it at the very end where a few sharp inclines seem to come out of nowhere.

In the final 5 miles, only one person passed me. But I passed 3. Good odds. And there was a gentleman who told me I was “the third”. I knew I wasn’t the third finisher, so it took me until the end of the race to realize he meant “the third” female.

Finish Line #Selfie

Finish Line #Selfie

I finished strong. The announcer said my name, and I collected my medal. Then I remembered to turn off my Garmin and my Runmeter, which clocked me at 1:39: something. If it was true, then I PR’d the course. I walked around a bit to cool down, took my #selfie with my medal at the finish line, and grabbed my drink ticket. Everyone reached for the beer, but I just wanted a hot cup of coffee. I got a bunch of post-race goodies, none of which I could eat. So after mulling around a bit, I headed to my car to dump it all, take my Recoverybits, grab a jacket, and a Quest bar.

By the time I headed back to the finish line, they had called my name for the age group award! So I picked up my prize, which was an awesome half zip jacket, a water bottle and a coupon for a free apple pie, and headed to take another selfie, but a sweet lady offered to take my picture for me! After that, I watched a few more folks cross the finish line, witnessed a proposal, and headed out.

Winner Swag Photo

Winner Swag Photo

Here is the closeup on the right sleeve.

Sleeve Close Up

Sleeve Close Up

Another awesome race in the bucket, and I was no worse for the wear…that is until about 3 pm that afternoon when it hit me like a ton of bricks. But as hard as I tried, I couldn’t nap. So I got up and mopped the floor, started dinner, and curled up on the sofa with my computer and cup of decaf coffee and surfed Facebook. The rest of the day took care of itself.

Next up? The Monster Dash, on October 25th. I’ll be running with some ladies in a nearby neighborhood. They all opted for the 10-mile run, but I’m going for the half once again. That should get my Half Fanatic approval.

It should be a stellar end to the 2014 race season, and one, I most certainly, will never forget!

Where and when is your next race? How many more do you have planned for 2014?

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