Haunted Hustle Half Marathon Race Recap

This was the last race in my 13-half-marathons goal for this year.  I can’t believe I did it!  Unfortunately, I didn’t exactly go out with a bang!

Rachel and I drove down to Madison on Saturday afternoon and stayed at my aunt’s house.  I know I say this every time I do a race in Madison, but I LOVE staying there.  And, she treated us to a really yummy dinner at Uno’s.

I was in bed really early.  Like…9:30.  I was tired.  We didn’t have to leave until around 7:15 Sunday morning, since the race was only about 15 minutes away.  I set my alarm for 6:30 and marveled at the fact that I was going to get to sleep in!

I woke up about 5:15 and decided that I would just hang out and catch up on facebook on my phone, since I would have to get up in 15 minutes.  Then I realized that I had an HOUR and 15 minutes!  I went back to sleep.

When I finally did get up, I took a quick shower and got ready, ate my breakfast of white rice, threw my things in the car and we were off.  Rachel was running the full marathon and her race started at 8:00. 

Parking was a breeze.  There was plenty of parking directly across the street from the Keva Sports Center.  After Rachel started, I walked back to the car to drop off her sweatshirt and then I grabbed my bib and left my nice, warm jacket behind.  I went back inside to stand in the long line for the bathrooms.  Yes, there were porta potties outside with no lines.  I waited in line.

At about 5 minutes to 9:00, I headed out to the starting area.  There were pace groups every 10 minutes from 1:30-2:30.  I lined up between the 1:50 and 2:00 pace groups.  The Middleton Fire Department had brought their ladder truck and ran the ladder across the road for the start of the race.  Pretty cool.

The marathoners had started their race with a short out-and-back section.  So, when the half marathon started, I found myself falling in line with the 4:20 marathon pace group.  This course design did make the course a bit crowded at the beginning. 

Part of the first few miles was on a nice bike trail.  There was some paved roads in there, and then around mile 3 we headed onto the Pheasant Branch Trail.  This was a mix of crushed gravel and wooden boardwalks.  The trails were very well maintained, (important because I am quite clumsy) and the boardwalks were wide enough that you never felt like you were stuck behind someone.  I passed the 4:10 marathon pace group on the trails.

I actually started to warm up on the trail section.  I decided to take of my outer layer.  The problem with this was that my ipod was in the pocket of my jacket and my fingers weren’t working well enough to get it out.  So, I left it in and tried to tie my jacket around my waist in a way that still allowed me to listen to my music.  Not the most comfortable or fashionable ensemble I’ve ever put together.


There was also a ‘scary’ touch to the trail section.  There was some guy out there with a chainsaw ‘chasing’ after the runners!  I like a race that sticks to its theme!

I did okay the first few miles of the race.  But somewhere around mile 5, I started to have some pretty bad stomach cramping.  My pace slowed considerably and I felt awful.  It was more than just discomfort, I was actually in pain.  I kept trying to talk myself out of it.  The mind can be very powerful.  But I couldn’t talk myself out of this one. 

Then there was the hills.  There were quite a few inclines on this course.  I wasn’t prepared for it to be that hilly.  And there was one hill that really took everything out of me.  That hill, coupled with the fact that I felt like I was going to throw up, played a horrible mental trick on me.  I really just wanted to throw in the towel.  Nothing was going well. 

I was worried that I wasn’t even going to finish in under two hours.  I was angry at myself for forgetting that I was going to try to run negative splits.  When you remember that at mile 5 of a half marathon, it is usually too late.  And by mile 7 or 8 I was giving back so much time that I knew the 2 hour pace group was gaining on me.

Things got pretty ugly for a while.  My aunt was waiting at approximately 8.5 of the half marathon…something like mile 15 of the full.  She saw me and Rachel.  Lets see who is having the better race at that point…


I am kinda smiling.  And I’m waving to get her attention.  But, I think I might also be holding my hands up in defeat.  “Stop!  Stop the madness. I’m not having fun!!” 

On the other hand…

Rachel is bounding along, all smiles, having the time of her life.  Incidentally, she finished in 3:45!  A huge PR for her.

I kept shuffling along.  I kept drinking water, but my fueling had pretty much stopped.  I couldn’t stomach anything else at that point.  Around mile 10, I made a pit stop.  I felt a bit better after that, but I saw that the 2:00 pace group had passed me. 

It took me about a mile to catch up to and pass them.  It seemed that the pace group leaders were struggling to keep the pace.  They didn’t have a huge group with them, but when I passed them at the mile marker, one of them mentioned to the other that they were going to have to pick up the pace. 

It was right around mile 11 that my left calf completely seized up.  I felt like I couldn’t completely stretch my leg out in front of me.  That has never happened to me before.  I don’t know if it was a nutrition thing, or if I should actually train on hills (probably), but it hurt like crazy.  It actually bothered me the whole ride home, and I had my compression socks on.

By the time I turned for the home stretch, I was completely spent.  I tried to pick up the pace.  The finishing chute was really narrow.

This is as I approached the finish line.  Yes, it was that bad.  I was hurting and I was pushing myself really hard to try to come in under 2 hours.

That guy in the red on the left almost punched me in the face as we neared the finish line.  He was trying to get a good photo.  I almost got a black eye.  I got a little pissed off at him.

This is my “Thank-God-it’s-over-and-I-just-finished-my-13th-half-marathon-of-the-year” pose.  I was totally spent.  I’m pretty sure that all the racing and training without adequate rest has really taken it’s toll.  Sure, I had a bad race, and that can be attributed to a lot of things, but cumulative fatigue is probably at the top of the list.

I hate looking at these splits.  Things started out so well.  The first few miles were great.  Then I felt like death.  Then I rebounded.

The elevation profile is all over the place.  But, if you look right before mile 8, you will see a line that goes straight up at a very sharp angle.  That sucked.

That spike is where I made my pit stop.  The smaller spike is where I had to power walk up that monster of a hill.

I’m all smiles in this picture-only because it is over!

I like that the medal takes advantage of the Halloween theme of the race. 

One of the race sponsors was a dentist.  So in our swag bags, we got a toothbrush.  And my aunt picked out another ‘freebie’ shirt for us.  I think I’ll wear it to my dentist appointment next week.  It is a pretty nice shirt.  It is a Nike dry-fit and it fits really well. (except that I don’t drink soda)

There were about 809 finishers for the half marathon.  I think there were about 50 in my age group. 


*Race Shirt.  I really like the shirt.  I love the color and it fits really well.  It has been rare this year that I have gotten a race shirt that I will wear again.  And isn’t that the best advertising for your event?

*Volunteers.  The water stations were well staffed and I always had someone there to hand me water when I needed it.  They were all very encouraging.  (There was also a medical emergency at the finish line and the volunteers and EMS were amazing in their response.  They immediately got to work and I have no doubt that they saved this runner’s life.)

*Parking.  How much do I love being able to park 100 feet from the start line?!?!

*It’s Madison.  Well, technically, it’s Middleton.  But, running in Madison is pretty great.  The community is really supportive of its runners.  While there were some sections that didn’t have much fan support (the trails, and some of the rural roads), the fans who were out there, were great.  Best sign of the day:  “What does the fox say?”


*Post race food.  No sports drink!  Really?!?  They had some on the course, but none at the end.  Or any chocolate milk.  There were bananas and oranges, but not much else in the way of refueling.

*Finish chute.  I don’t really understand why the chute had to be so narrow, the road was plenty wide to make the finish line extend further.  There were several times, as I was watching the finishers come through after me, where several people came through all trying to get that ‘perfect’ finish photo.  I wasn’t the only one who narrowly escaped getting hit in the face.

*Pancake breakfast.  I loved the idea of the pancake breakfast.  It is a great way to celebrate an accomplishment and encourage runners and spectators to stick around and socialize.  But, why not include it in the race entry?  I don’t know of many runners who carry cash with them.  If you can have a tag on your bib for a free beer, why not a tag for the pancake breakfast?

Overall Grade:  B

I don’t think I would do this race again.  I’m not a fan of hills or cold weather.  However, I’m glad I had the chance to finish this race as I capped off my year-long goal of 13 half marathons in 2013.

I think this race has a lot going for it.  It could probably be awesome with just a few tweaks (like maybe not having the marathoners run the same loop twice-that’s boring).  I do think they did a great job sticking to the Halloween theme.  I would probably recommend this course to other runners who were looking for a small race, and who don’t mind running hills.

That’s the last of the half marathon reports.  I think I’m going to put together a post doing a compare/contrast/best-things report.


4 thoughts on “Haunted Hustle Half Marathon Race Recap

  1. Pingback: Thirteen 13.1 in 2013 | (G)O'Donnell

  2. Pingback: October month in review | (G)O'Donnell

  3. so happy for you, heather! You achieved a wonderful goal which most people could never imagine doing! You don’t have to win style points to have finished in style! Congratulations on a great year of running. Reflect well on all you have learned.

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