Friday, June 11, 2021

Hospital Hill Half: Hot Hilly Happiness

The short:
I kept saying “it’s not a real race” before the Hospital Hill Half Marathon, but I am also well-aware that when I get into a race I will not run easy! Now, when it’s a sunny 74-80 degrees, the course is very hilly, I'm 3 weeks off a marathon, I am just off a rest phase, and I am 3 days off of a major vacation, that doesn't mean I am going to knock it out of the park, but I'll give it all I've got on the day.  That is exactly what I did at Hospital Hill, and I was very happy with my result all-considering.  I was first overall female in 1:25:27 and set a new women's course record (it's a relatively new course).  I also had a ton of fun in the process; running a race with no time expectations can be very freeing!  I came home with a great finishing banner, a lot of joy, and a tan.

Overall female results are here.

My activity on Strava is here - check out that split variation based on the elevation, hah!

My dad's video of the start is here.

My dad's video of me breaking the tape at the finish is here.

I love when races have & let you keep
these finishing banners!

Athlinks says it was 87*...maybe in direct sun?

The long:
I had no desire to run Hospital Hill this year until my friend Andrew started talking about pacing their 1:25 pace group.  We both thought that it was odd to offer a 1:25 group because anyone who could run that kind of time on that course in typical Missouri June weather probably didn't need any pacing assistance, and we also agreed that it would be about max for both of us to do it, but if we could get a free entry to pace then we should do it (follow this logic at all?).  I knew I could combine the race with a work trip, and my niece's high school graduation ceremony was 36 hours before the race in the same town, so it seemed like a no-brainer that I'd run it if I had a free entry.  Andrew ended up getting me that free entry, but with no pacing duties (the 1:25 group was axed), and although I briefly retracted my willingness to run it when we scheduled our family vacation right before the race, I felt fine enough when the time came so I lined up on race morning.

Missouri summers are very humid, and I was not yet heat adapted, so I knew race day with temperatures starting at 74 degrees and quickly rising was going to be uncomfortable.  The course is very hilly, including the infamous Hospital Hill climb, so I had zero expectations for time; I just wanted to work with Andrew and compete with the other women in the field.  My friend Laura was running the race, and I suspected she'd be my main competition (she'd won the race several times before).  I knew I'd have to have a good day to beat her, but also figured we could work together.  I wasn't in the mindset to throw down an extremely hard effort, but I knew I would if that's what it took.

I started off very conservatively, running easier than marathon effort for the first 5k, which included the 160ish ft Hospital Hill Climb.  I was with Andrew, his friend Josh, my friend Laura, and a man who wanted to break 1:30.  There were a couple of women ahead of us, and it was hard for me not to try to chase them down, but I kept it easy through the 5k then upped the effort a little, thinking, "it's just a 10 mile race".  Laura and I moved into the top two female positions around mile 4, and our group of 4 (Andrew, Josh, Laura, me) stayed pretty close, although we approached hills a bit differently.  I just aimed to maintain equal effort.  I don't race by my watch anymore regardless, but this race is definitely not one to run by split times because the elevation varies so much.  Our group chatted and laughed quite a bit and everyone seemed to be enjoying the race.  Laura and I got a lot of "go ladies" cheers, and Josh kept chiming in, "and men!" after them.  Andrew was very familiar with the course and kept narrating it for us, particularly emphasizing how sucky miles 11-12 were going to be.

Josh, Andrew, me

The saving grace on the hot sunny day was the amount of shade from large trees on the course.  If it had all been in open sun I am pretty sure I would have died!  I felt really good and like I was holding back, and around miles 7-8 I felt like others were easing off a little, so around mile 9 I started pushing more, then Josh and I gapped Andrew and Laura.  I knew that miles 11-12 were all uphill, then the last mile was downhill, so I gave effort accordingly.  I passed several men between mile 10 and the finish, which kept my momentum going.  At mile 11 I was definitely ready to get to mile 12 and the downhill, and Josh told me that I had a significant lead so I didn't plan to hammer the end, but the downhill propelled me to a 5:58 final mile.  I never felt like I was running that hard during the race, but the heat snuck up on me so I also don't think I could have run really any faster, so I'm glad I didn't try to early on (though mindset probably played into this)!  Overall I felt strong but not sharp, which is what I'd expect based on where I'm at right now.

Smiling as the announcer stated first female

I had a lead cyclist with and around me from when Laura and I took the female lead to the end, and he was great.  We kept joking with him that he had to make sure I didn't cut the course.  As I was coming down the final stretch I saw him waving frantically at the finish line staff to hold up the overall female finishing banner.  It's always so fun to break a tape; I did so with a huge smile on my face and I even remembered not to stop my watch until I was through the line and stopped.  The only disadvantage to that was that I didn't capture how fast my finishing sprint was, but we all know I'm not setting any speed records in anything, so...  My parents said they announced that I set the female course record (the course has been changed since they used to give prize money), but I haven't found anything official about that anywhere yet.  I also completely forgot to pick up my overall award, but I'm pretty happy with the banner.
Professional finishing photo sequence

Post-finish photos from race officials

After I finished some of the race staff took my photo, my parents took pictures, and a race official asked me about the event and how easy the course was to follow (answer: it was great, except the runners behind us who were going out when we were coming back moved over to the shorter route lane of the road, so we ran the longer route going both out and back, which added a little distance).  I met back up with Josh and Andrew, who both finished right behind me.  Andrew was pleased to hit the 1:25 goal - pre-race we'd hypothesized that 1:25 on that course in the heat was like 1:20 on a good course in good weather, then post-race he determined that temperature calculators like this one give us 14-18 seconds/mile, and the course (based on Strava GAP) gives us 4 seconds/mile, so our performance probably is equivalent to a 1:19-1:20.  This premium Strava user finished not far behind me, so you can look at his grade adjusted paces.  I have enjoyed running races that I know I won't run super fast in this season though!  I love PR-chasing, but it's also a joy to just go compete and do my best given the conditions, without worrying about seconds here and there.  I also seem to also be doing well on long races with climbs towards the end (e.g., every single race I have run in 2021 aside from the Squirrel 5k), although I will not select courses like this for PR-chasing.

The last mile was nice!

My parents took a bunch of pics with
this banner while I ran my cool down

Aren't they the cutest?

This summer I will be doing a little less mileage and a little more speed work before transitioning into marathon training.  Speed stuff is not my forte but it will be good for me, and I am hoping to challenge my 5k PR.  My next long race (another half) will be August 28, which seems really far away even though it's not, so I'm extra glad I got this one in.  I continue to be amazed at the blessings God gives me through running, especially considering that a year ago I was highly skeptical that I would ever run well again.  That was probably dramatic, but us runners are likely to defer to that when off running or not performing well, so if you are in that situation, don't stop believing!  That time period has made me far less obsessive about times and finding "perfect" races, so I imagine that was part of the blessing in disguise.  I've loved every race I've run this year, but a few years ago I don't think I'd have selected any of them!
I bought this great top for a 4th of July
race, but since I'm not running one I
decided to wear it for Hospital Hill!


  1. Such an impressive race! I loved the look of the 10k runner finishing and looking over to see you hauling down that hill.

    1. Haha, I didn't notice that before you mentioned it! I didn't think I would ever run this race again but I was so glad I did.

    2. Maybe I'll be brave enough to tackle it again some day... haha

    3. It HAS to go better next time! ;-)