I'm happier now than ever that I didn't run the full marathon in the Quad Cities this weekend. The Half Marathon course was really a nice course, with a lot of scenery changes, one big hill (followed by a downhill), and great volunteers. If I had run the full marathon course, the remaining 13 miles would have come in out-and-back loops that I've been told get really boring.
As for the half, it went great! We arrive d in Iowa Saturday afternoon, and our first stop was the "expo," which was remarkably small. After jumping through some hoops while trying to explain that I was registered for the Full Marathon but wanted to run the half, I ended up getting told that it didn't matter--just run whatever you want to. This would come into play later Sunday morning...
On race day, we were at the start at about 7:15, and were ready to go for the 7:30 start. While by no means was the beginning anything like Chicago, it still was congested. I found a couple pacing groups for the half marathon, but none of them were looking to run 1:35. The closest was 1:30. As the whistle started, I made my way to the front, trying to avoid weaving, thinking to myself, "you can't do that in Chicago!" My first mile, which was completed half way across the Interstate 74 Bridge (the only time in the country you run on an interstate, I guess), was 7:45. I thought, that's ok, I'll make it up. The second mile was up the one big hill in the course, and again, I was off pace by about 15 seconds. The third mile involved coming back down that big hill we just climbed. I let the legs stretch out a bit, and upon reaching the 4 mile mark, I was back on pace! Running along the river for the next several miles, I could see the "1:30" pace group ahead of me. I slowly gained on them, and caught them at about mile 6. From mile 6 to 11, I stayed right with them and felt great doing it. That's when I decided to see what I had left. I had decided 1:34 was a piece of cake, so why not try and break 1:30? Taking off from the group, I eventually reached an exchange point for the full marathon relay. It was a pretty hopping area, and my blue-colored marathon bib was noticed by all. Their eyes got big, a couple people really started cheering, and then I realized they thought I was leading the marathon! I put my arms up to calm them down, told them I'm just doing the half, and there were smiles all around. It was great.
At about mile 12.5 I hit a bit of a wall and my pace backed off a bit. The final quarter mile is down a considerable hill and into the corral, and I was pretty pumped to see "1:29" on the clock. Coming in at 1:29:13 gave me 30th overall in the half, and I'm really excited for Chicago. I really think I need to catch up with the pacing group in the front corral to be sure I keep a good pace through at least 20 miles. I still haven't gotten the eating down either, especially when running, but I'll work on that the next couple weeks so I at least feel comfortable doing it.
All in all, I couldn't ask for more this weekend!