Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Hallwilerseelauf Half Marathon - 10/15/11

After another year of not getting a spot in the Nike Women's Marathon draw, I did manage to secure an entry again from someone who won a passcode to the half marathon. I was pretty excited to run it once again, but instead it looked like I was being sent to Zurich for work that week. After checking out the race calendar in Zurich and the surrounding areas, I found what looked to be a perfect half marathon in Beinwil am See. Hallwilerseelauf had a number of events, two of which were a half marathon and a 10k. I knew I would run the half marathon, and after researching the 10k, I knew Annelyse, who was coming with me on the trip, would want to run it.

We arrived in Zurich on Friday night, and from what seems to be fairly common in races in Switzerland, the events didn't start until early afternoon on Saturday. This gave us time to get some rest after a long flight cramped in economy. By 10:30a we were on a train, still a bit groggy, that would take us an hour southwest of Zurich. We arrived in plenty of time to pick up our racing bibs, goodie bags, and a racing vest (in lieu of a t-shirt). Beinwil am See is a small town that sits on Lake Hallwil. The 10k would run half the distance around the lake, and then transport the runners by ferry back to the start, which was perfect given Annelyse's love of ferries. The half marathon would run around the lake in its entirety.

The 10k started at 12:30, so I waved Annelyse off, then spent some time wandering around before tracking down the place where I was able to leave my things during the race. After having previously ran a race in Switzerland, I've learned that they always seem to have full locker/changing rooms available to the runners. I'm not sure if this is common throughout all of Europe, but runners often show up in street clothes, then change into their running gear, and after the race is over, shower and change back into their street clothes before heading home. This race was no exception. There were giant tents set up with showers and changing areas for both men and women. Being that it was so cold outside, I hung out in the changing room while I waited for the start of my race.

This was a good sized race. There were over 5,500 people combined between the 6+ events, with the half marathon drawing the largest participation with over 3,500 runners. Of those 3,500, only one third were female. The half marathon started in waves depending on your estimated finishing time, and while I can't remember what I put as mine, I started in block E. The waves left four minutes apart from each other giving me a start time of 1:46. The start of the race was lined with spectators as we ran down a paved road. As we got out of earshot from the cheers of the crowds, I recall how quiet it was. It was overcast, and no one was talking, and all you could hear was the pitter patter of our feet on the pavement as we ran down the road. I loved that sound, and I loved that even though I couldn't speak their language, I had at least one thing in common with all of them.

I had no time expectations for this race. Instead, it was quite the opposite. I knew I would be jet lagged, and I wanted to treat it as a training run so that I could enjoy it and take in the scenery. This would give me the opportunity to take pictures along the way, so I ran with my phone for just that reason. There was more than one occasion when I got funny looks for pulling off to the side of the course and taking pictures. A few runners commented to me in german as they passed by. I have no idea what they said, but their smiles told me they were likely making some kind of joke.

We ran through the beautiful countryside all along the perimeter of the lake mostly on dirt and gravel trails. The trail wasn't wide, and with the exception of a few sections, the staggered wave start made it not too difficult to navigate around slower runners. It probably wasn't conducive to trying to run a fast race, but was perfect for me since I wasn't looking to. We passed the 10k finish, and the area was once again crowded with a lot of spectators hollering out "hopp, hopp, hopp!" over and over. I'd forgotten about that from my last race, and made a mental note to ask my Swiss coworker about that. Apparently, it's like calling out "go, go, go".

Just before the 15k mark, we came upon the Hallwyl Castle. Built in 1265, and added upon and renovated throughout the centuries, it's the only castle in Switzerland surrounded completely by a mote. Today it's open to the public, and while I obviously didn't get to go in and check it out, it still wasn't a bad site to see during a race.

While the race was mostly run alongside the lake, there were a few occasions where we ran through residential areas. Running down the streets you knew you were in a different country. The houses are quaint in that old-fashioned, country style way, and many had swiss flags hanging outside. You could tell this was a big event for the area, and many of the residents were out with their children and dogs to watch. At places near the start, many had set up small stands and were selling various items such as bratwurst, pretzels, fruit, juices, and even beer and champagne.

As the race came to an end, I could see the finish and hear the cheering. The chute was lined with people, including Annelyse, cheering everyone on. We were all directed onto a grassy area where fruit was available to the runners. Still being extremely dehydrated from the flight and not finding water, I chugged the majority of what Annelyse had left of hers. Still somewhat thirsty, I found the Rivella tents. Rivella was something I was familiar with from the last time I visited, but I still didn't really know what it was. I drank the carbonated liquid, and later found out that it's milk serum (similar to whey protein), and while popular just as a regular drink in Switzerland, its also beneficial for muscle recovery.

The race ended near where it started, but we had a quite a big hill to trek up to get to the changing tents where my stuff was. If I had just completed a full marathon, I don't think I would have managed to get up it, but thankfully, it wasn't too terrible. After we collected our gear and layered up, we headed back down to the small train stop and waited in the cold to for our train. Public transportation in Switzerland is fantastic and we made it there and back with no problem at all.

We arrived in Zurich and were tired and cold from the long day. The jet lag was catching up to us, and we needed showers. But first things were first, so we grabbed some coffee near the Stadelhofen train stop which just happened to be next to a Spr√ľngli. I'd been dying for a mini macaroon from there since I left Switzerland a year ago, and what better time for a treat than at that moment. Who said you can't have dessert before dinner?

All and all, a great day. Getting to explore a new area in a different country while doing what you love is pretty amazing.

Race stats: (walkers or those with times over 3:00 weren't included in this category)
Overall female: 164 of 1031
Age Group: 67 of 278
Chip time: 1:44:45
GPS time: 1:43:51

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Primo's Run for Education Half Marathon - 10/9/11

My sister planned a trip to Danville with her family to coincide with the Primo's Run for Education. I'd run it last year, and we thought it would be fun since it's a Danville race and the whole family could be out cheering us on. Annelyse was going to run it as well, but she got sick so it was just my sister and I. My dad dropped us off at the start in downtown Danville by Primo's, an Italian restaurant our family has eaten at countless times. My dad had read there were 8,000 people in the event, however, the majority of those were school kids and their families doing the 5k. Turns out there were 506 people running the half marathon.

Soon after we got there, the race started and we ran through part of downtown Danville before heading into the residential area. Right as my watch beeped my split for mile one, the battery died. So for the second time running this course, I'd be without the use of my watch (the last time I forgot it). This probably wasn't a bad thing since I was just coming off the marathon two weeks prior and probably needed to take it a bit easy. The only problem with this was I had no idea what my pace was, so probably ended up overcompensating and ran faster than I thought.

We ran through the Old Orchard area and then crossed over Sycamore onto Greenbrook before we took a turn on Paraiso Dr. This was the first of four points along the course that my dad had mapped out to come watch us run. As I made the climb up the small hill, my mom, dad, brother-in-law, Sully, and nephew, Colton, were all there waiting for me along with a few other spectators. We continued on towards Baldwin School and then through Osage Park and came out on El Capitan. Just as we made the turn from El Capitan back onto Greenbrook, which was right around mile six, I saw my personal cheering section once again with cameras out taking pictures as I ran by.

Over the next few miles we wound our way through the neighborhood and onto Iron Horse Trail. Just before we reached the trail, I was talking to a man who was riding one of those old school bikes with the giant front wheel, and miniature back wheel like they had in the 1800's. He said it weighed about 45 lbs, and offered to let me ride it at the end of the race if I wanted. I thanked him, but told him it probably wasn't a good idea, as I'd surely fall off and not only hurt myself, but probably the bike too. Shortly after, I came upon my cheering section once again. My nephew, Colton, looked as content as could be in his stroller and gave me the warm fuzzies as I ran by.

After I ran one section of the trail, I saw my family for the fourth time in eight miles and they were all smiles. The course zig zagged through our neighborhood so it made it easy for them to walk down and get from point to point rather quickly. I waved hello, and knew the next time I'd see them was at the finish. I continued my run toward San Ramon and soon intersected with all the families walking the 5k with their kids. There were a ton of people, but the race organizers did a great job of keeping a lane open strictly for the half marathon runners. I passed a volunteer who called out that I was the 9th female, and then just after, a man who was walking the 5k called out, "You get em, girl". The combination of the two gave me a little boost and kept me going.

The last few miles had four high school bands out playing, in addition to what looked to be a glee club. Over the course of the last few weeks, I've only run a handful of times, one of which was the marathon, and I could tell my speed wasn't quite back to what it was. I knew this would be the case, but this race proved that my body is feeling fully recovered from both the calf injury and the marathon. I know it's only a matter of time before I get my speed back. Forcing myself to take some recovery time cross training was definitely a smart move.

We made the turn onto Alcosta Blvd, and ran the last quarter of a mile toward the finish line at Iron Horse School. As I sprinted to the finish, I didn't hear any cheers from my family, so figured they didn't quite have enough time to reach it before I finished. Turns out they had to park about two miles away, so missed me by about 10 minutes. Luckily, they made it just in time to see my sister finish, and we all cheered her in. Just like last year, the top 50 female/male finishers received special, commemorative shirts. Last year, I was number 52 and a bit bummed I'd just missed it. This year, I was number 14, and I happily claimed by "Top 50 Finisher" shirt.

This was the first race where my parents got to see me run, and it was the ideal weekend. Not only did I get to run it, but my sister flew home to do it as well so they got to see us both. The bonus was that Sully and Colton were there as well, and that the race was in our hometown. Next year, I'm pushing for us all to run it.

Race stats:
Overall Female: 14th of 200
Age Group: 7th of 75
Chip time: 1:42:27 (7:49 avg pace)
GPS time: N/A