Sunday, June 3, 2012

2012 Med City Half Marathon Review

About a year ago my wife and I were walking around a city park pushing son #1 in the stroller.  She was pregnant with son #2 and I had been running about two months.  The 2011 Minnesota Warrior Dash was about a month away and we were chatting about it.  I was surprised about how much I had improved already and I mentioned that maybe a half-marathon would be possible in the future.  It was a thought that would have been impossible not long before.

Fast forward to May 27th, 2012 and I'm in the pack for the Med City run, along with a few other barefooters (Christian, Katie, Jane, Nicole, and Bob)!  This would be my longest run ever, on a hot day, when I was already dealing with a little pain in my foot.  Here we go!

The Med City starts in Byron, MN and follows a hilly county highway to Rochester where you hop on some blacktop trails of varying age.  Some as smooth as butter, some not so smooth.  At mile twelve the half marathon and marathon routes diverge.  As hot as it was that morning, I was glad to take the right turn to the finish, rather than the left turn for another 14 miles.  Let's not get ahead of ourselves though.

Standing at the start was a little chilly, but the skies were clear so the sun would be on us soon.  Christian entertained us with his Schwartzenegger impression and we discussed the finer points of peeing in the woods.  We also stood and chatted with some other runners about barefooting and one lady was pretty interested.  She told us that she had a pair of Vibrams but her feet were very sore after her first run.  After we found out that she went two miles her first time out in them, we gave her some tips and ideas to get her started right.  I hope she tries them out.

We got started and were sticking around a 10:20 pace for the first miles.  By one mile in, the heat was already on us.  We kept at an easy pace and headed out into the open countryside.  I was feeling good, with just a little pain in the top of my right foot.  The weird thing about it was that it didn't hurt all the time.  I had it taped with Kineso Tape, trying to ward off extra pain and swelling.  Even though that tape is usually magic, it didn't provide much relief in this case.  The other thing I was wondering about was my food intake before the race.  At my last race (a 5K in February) I had eaten some oatmeal pre-race and it sat in my stomach like a rock, eventually leading to stitches in my side that forced me to walk.  Pretty lame for a 5K.  For this run, I tried a banana, Snicker's Marathon bar, and a Red Bull.  It was a lot of sugar, but seemed to be OK.  No problems with side pain and no stomach upset from the sugar.

We had a little break at about three miles while Katie and Jane hit the porta-potties and we were off again.  The first seven miles are pretty straight but a little hilly.  After mile seven, the course is nearly flat to the finish.  I was feeling fine at the first water stop so I skipped that one.  Not sure if that was good or bad.  I had two or three cups at each stop after that, but I still ended up five pounds lighter at the end of the race.

Nicole ran ahead down the last hill around mile 7 and took a picture of four running hobos with no shoes. (L to R: Me, Bob, Christian, Katie)

Responses to a pack of four with no shoes on were varied, but mostly supportive.  In fact I only heard one negative comment the whole time.  Usually people would shout their support and approval, and then follow it up with "I could never do that!"  Funny, I used to say the same thing.  No one even mentioned Bob's kilt.  I guess kilts are mainstream.

By about mile six we fell in with the 2:30 pacer group and alternated passing them and getting passed.  At about mile nine, my feet started to get a little tender on the bottom.  I wasn't hitting many rocks or other debris, but the pavement was warm and starting to get rougher and I was getting a little tired.  I got a bump of energy at about mile 10.5 when we passed my wife, my boys, and a few in-laws who were waiting to cheer me on.  It was this point in the race that I knew I would finish with no trouble, but I was ready to be done!

About mile 10.5

We hit the mile 12 aid station and stopped for a picture before Bob and Nicole headed for the second half of the marathon.  Katie, Christian and I walked about 100 yards and took off for the finish.  My feet were pretty tender by this point, but I didn’t have much trouble as long as I kept moving. 

Mile 12 Aid Station.

The half marathon course follows around Silver Lake in Rochester before heading South to the Civic Center for the finish. As you pass Silver Lake you cross over 7th Street.  It was at this point that someone on a bike wearing a vest rode past me on the course.  The vest said “Lead Biker”.  I thought to myself, “Huh.  I guess maybe there is more than one lead biker, and this guy’s shift is over.”  That’s when I was overtaken by a flash of red as the Marathon winner ran by me.  Embarrassing?  No.  Humbling?  Absolutely.  I guess I need some more practice.  He finished the marathon three minutes ahead of me.

Coming in to the finish.

My family made it from the park to the finish line to wave me in and I finished in an official time of 2:31:12.  My longest run ever by one mile and my first half marathon.  I grabbed a handful of orange slices and a bottle of water and stood around chatting with my barefoot compatriots.  There is really nothing like orange slices after a run in the heat.  Christian was pounding muscle milk and discussing his work capacity across time and modal domains.  You should ask him about it sometime.

I found my family and made a mistake.  I sat down for a couple minutes.  My feet were ungodly sore when I stood up to walk to my car.  No cuts or bruises, just really tender.  I hobbled to the Jeep and made it home for a nice Memorial Day weekend with the family that included a little Gatorade, a lot of water, a large amount of green salad, pork loin on the smoker, drinking beer, brewing beer, and generally lazing around.

Still smiling at the finish.

Me and my boys.

No post would be complete without telling you what I learned so here it is.
1.      Hydration.  Even though there were aid stations every two miles I really could have used an extra drink or two in-between, especially towards the end.  Next time I might bring some extra with me if it is going to be so hot.  Also, don’t skip an aid station.  Just grab a drink and go.  I also learned the “fold the cup” technique so the liquid goes in your mouth instead of down your chest.  Very handy.
2.      Pre-race food.  I think my banana, Marathon bar, Red Bull combo worked nicely.  Plenty to get me through the distance, but not so much that it was sitting in my gut.  I usually drink coffee in the morning, but that didn’t sound good pre-race.  Plus, I hear that Red Bull gives you wings.
3.      Run with a friend.  It’s more fun and the miles go quicker.

Run on, Runners!

*Edit:  I forgot to say thanks to all the volunteers staffing the aid stations!  You folks are awesome!


  1. Great report! I'm excited for my first half in August... but I think I'll have shoes on of some sort... just need to figure out which ones :-) Congrats on a great run!!

    1. Thanks Jeff! Good luck to you. I'll be looking for your report.

  2. Nice job Andy! Liz St. Louis and I were talking about your barefoot exploits this weekend. Chiropractically approved!

    1. Awesome, Colleen! We need to hook up for a barefoot run.

  3. Excellent!!

    I wear a fuel belt with four 7 oz water bottles. Some marathons i haven't used them...but the psychological advantage is there lol. (they make bigger bottles...but they tend to shake while running)