Race Report: Ulman Fund / Team Fight Half Full Tri Relay (Half Marathon Run Leg)

I spent this weekend in Maryland at the First Annual Half Full Triathlon.  This event was the brain child of Brian Satola at the Ulman Cancer Fund to help raise money to assist young adults diagnosed with cancer.

Pre Race:  Several months ago, I was picked to run the half marathon relay leg on team Bec and Friends.  Bec Wassner is a pro triathlete.  Her twin sister, Laurel, is the only pro triathlete that is also a cancer survivor.  Both were racing as part of relay teams to show their support of the Ulman Fund.

Bec was our swimmer and Mark Raynault, also a cancer survivor, was on the bike.  Mark is about 6 years out from his blood cancer diagnosis.   I meet Mark at the Team Fight luncheon.  He is a wonderful guy who I hope to see again in the future (maybe I can talk him into teaming up again next year!)  At the luncheon, Brain presented a very moving video showing just what Team Fight is all about.  I hope a link becomes available.  Many were moved to tears.

Just before the video, I was asked to say a few words about my journey from cancer to over 110 miles in 24 hours.  I enjoyed sharing with Team Fight  just how running has helped me through my own recovery and has shifted my self image from one of “cancer patient/survivor” to “athlete/survivor”.   I also explained how the Ulman Fund personally helped me get back on my feet by giving me a scholarship.

Race Day: There was over 1000 participants.  100 were cancer survivors! The start was a time trial wave start which meant swimmers were release in pairs every 2 seconds and sent off in group by age bracket or other designators.   The wave for Relay was one of the last to go.  Bec is incredible and swam her .9 mile leg in around 21 minutes, passing many of those released into the water well before her.

Mark took off on his 56 mile bike leg.   Mark was undertaking an incredible feat by racing the longest race of his life for our relay.   He did ride the course two weeks ago in about 3:45.  We were hoping that he would be back by that time or sooner.  I showed up in transition at 11:10 am, just 3 hours after he set off on the course.

While waiting for Mark, the leaders came in much later than anticipated due to a very strong head wind slowing everyone down.  I was hopeful that Mark could still pull off a 3:45.  At the 3:30 mark, I got ready to race and tried to stay that way.  It is terribly hard to be ready to race when you don’t know when you are going to start.   Like most bikers, Mark was running late and by 4 hours I began to worry.  Chatter started about flat tires, popped chains or other things that could go wrong out there.

Then suddenly I felt a sharp pinch under my arm, like someone stuck me with a safety pin.  Oh man! I just got stung by a bee (twice!)   Not sure if I was allergic, but knowing my dad is, I began to have a mini panic attack.  I watched the area and I felt fine while standing.   I was just not sure what would happened when I started getting my heart rate up.  The double loop run course had lots of police and volunteer presence and that helped me feel a bit at ease.   About 20 minutes after the sting, Mark came explaining that he did get a flat.  (I’m so sorry that happened Mark)

I wasn’t the least bit disappointed in the delay because I knew that I was feeling less than prepared to crank out a speedy half.   My ACL was not perfect and I was told the course was challenging.  I truly just wanted to finish the race with a good effort and hopefully stay sub-8 pace, chalking this up as a nice training effort.  Generally I don’t worry about whether or not I will finish a half, but if my ACL got too painful, I knew I would have to stop.

I took off out of transition and I was moving well.  It felt good to run fast until I started up the first little hill.  I could feel my heart pounding and hear my wheezing.  I started to get scared!  Oh no, is this anaphylaxis!  There isn’t even another runner nearby to help me!  I looked at my arm and the swelling had appeared to have gone down.  Then I hit mile marker 1 and saw it a 6:57 on my Timex.  Ha ha!  That explains it.  My heart is pounding and I can’t breath because I am running a lot faster than I should be.   I just needed to slow down.

Soon, I caught up to some others and tucked in behind a guy with a smooth stride.  We hovered at 7:30-7:40 per mile until the next water stop where he slowed and I passed.  The course was rolling with some truly substantial hills, the kind that make you question whether you can run to the top without walking a few steps.  I was pleased to never need to resort to that.  But if I had just come off a 56 mile bike ride, I probably would have walked half that course!

By the second loop the down hills and any sharp turns began to take a toll on my knee.  I slowed down my pace to see if I could reduce the strain that was starting.  It pained me to see some splits well into the 8’s on those last climbs, but today wasn’t the race for me to damage myself.

But when I saw that 12 mile mark, I decided to just open it up until the finish.  As I approached mile 13, I suspected I was in the mid-7’s.  I was happily surprised to find my last split was 6:53 and my fastest of the day.  I kicked hard into the shoot to finish in about 1:42.  There really is nothing more exhilarating than finishing strong and one thing Triathlete do well is set up a finish line!  Carpet, flags, flowers, fences and a gigantic framed in digital clock!  This sure beats the old standby shoot made from a few traffic cones and some police tape that I’ve seen show up at few good ol’ foot races. ;)

Overall, Brian did a fantastic job directing the first Half Full Tri.  Sarah was incredible at the Ulman Fund info table, interviewing and posting videos of willing participant explaining why they are at this event.   Katrina was another amazing Ulman Fund person I got to meet as she ran around with her camera snapping race day photos soon to be published online.

I feel honored to have been a part of this event and hope to return next year ready to rock those hills.  It honestly almost makes me wish I owned a bike!  :)

(Please keep the Ulman Fund in mind when considering which cancer foundation to send a donation.  http://www.halffulltri.org/ or represent  Team Fight http://www.ulmanfund.org/Get-Involved/Team-Fight.aspx at your next event!)

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- who has written 6 posts on Run It Fast®.

I started racing during the later phases of my cancer treatment in October of 2006. I have logged over 200+ races and I'm most proud of my 24 hour 110.67 mile race, my 3:15 marathon and my 4:15 50k at the 2011 Nationals for 8th OA Female :). I have become a certified long distance running coach and currently volunteer with TNT. I help others reach their own personal best online, individually, or through the charity running program "Run for the Books" (http://oneforthebooks.org/blog/) which raises money to help provide books to pediatric oncology units.

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2 Responses to “Race Report: Ulman Fund / Team Fight Half Full Tri Relay (Half Marathon Run Leg)”

  1. Tony Mollica says:

    What a great cause to run for! Congratulations to Brian and the other organizers for putting the event together!

    I never really thought about how tough it would be to stay warmed up as I have never done a relay like that. Plus waiting for a guy on a 56 mile bike ride where wind, a flat tire or other things could greatly impact one’s finish time.

    Nice race Shannon1 I’m glad your AT or knee didn’t cause you big problems! Good luck in your training!

  2. Thanks Tony so much for reading these. I love that you comment here. I miss your feed back.

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