As you can see from yesterday’s post, I was able to accomplish my goal of completing a half marathon in under 2 hours, coming in with a time of 1:57:49! I celebrated with a post-race lunch of pulled pork and hard cider, and afternoon nap, and then an evening of shopping (for my husband, which I love doing because I get to pick out something other than the same old clothes for myself). Then, today I tried to keep my legs from getting stiff by doing a VERY slow 20 minute jog and taking a 4 mile bike ride with my husband – a test run of his new bike! Both of us are completely new to road bikes, so we are trying to just take it easy and get used to them.
Before discussing the actual race, since this is my first half, I’d like to take a moment to discuss my preparation for it. I am very glad overall with how it worked out. The training program I used (Hal Higdon Novice 2) was feasible for me, though near the end it was really taking its toll on my poor body (I just could not eat enough). I ended up making some mistakes that led to me finishing it early, which gave me 2 extra weeks of really long runs (12 miles or more) and let me sneak in a practice half. This gave me a lot more confidence. I also made sure to pay attention to the advice to try out things I was thinking of doing for the race for several long runs, such as the use of nutrition gummies and trying out different breakfasts (settled on a cinnamon raisin bagel with neufchatel cheese). The morning of the race, I had everything laid out (I knew what I would wear based on what worked best in training), had everything ready to eat, and even had a plan on where I was going to stop and use the bathroom before we got there (I still had to pee in the gross porta-potties due to nerves, though).
Anyway, on to the race report!
As I mentioned yesterday, I’d say one of my biggest beefs with the course was that the hilliness was poorly represented by the elevation profile on MapMyRun. However, despite my protests, this aspect of the course may have actually been beneficial to me. I knew there was a hill – I just thought it was a gradual climb over a long distance rather than several steep up and downhills that slowly went up to the highest elevation (and the uphill 5K at the end I forgot about, which was more of the gradual uphill type thing I was thinking of). Because I knew there was a hill, I made sure to incorporate hills into ALL of my long runs – I was thinking this would give me an advantage because in these long runs I was running up big steep hills, which would surely be more difficult than my half marathon and make running such a “flat” course far easier! I was correct that it advantaged me, but not in the way that I thought. Instead, it only advantaged me because as other runners walked up the hills, I was able to continue (slowly – and I mean slow, at least in comparison to myself, these were 9-10 minute mile splits when my average pace was 8:50) running. Those of us who were able to actually run up the hills were definitely congratulating each other at the tops!
Anyway, I will stop dwelling on the hills so that I can complain about two other things (don’t worry, the good is coming, I just want to get the bad out of the way – let me rant, ok!?).
First, I would say that one poor aspect of their organization was that starting/ending the race was sort of poorly organized. It was completely unclear where the starting line was and I never actually heard anyone announce that we should get going (in fact, no information was being announced). I just sort of walked up to where other runners were standing and saw that there was a finish line there…but no starting line… and hoped we were in the right place. I think I could have started up farther in the group had I been sure of what was going on – the people around me were talking about how they weren’t sure they would be able to run the whole thing because they had not completed their training due to injury or simply had not trained. I may not be fast enough to be at the front, but I should have been in front of people who were less prepared than me. The finish was also a little confusing. Because of issues with road closures (the next thing I will talk about) when I was coming up to the finish, a car was squishing all of the runners together and it was difficult to finish strong with a crowd of people (though some woman I had been playing tag with was able to overtake me in this mess). The times were also being displayed right at the end of the route on a computer making a bit of a traffic jam of volunteers handing out medals and towels, finishers looking at their times, and people trying to get to the water station.
The second problem with the race was that they claimed that the roads would be closed, but I don’t think they were (or if they were supposed to be, it was poorly enforced). There was a sign near the starting area that said something like “slow down – runners on road,” but it really should have said “there are 5 simultaneous biking and running events occurring on this narrow, winding country road right now and you probably aren’t going to be able to get past the participants, spectators, and structures that are all over the road so just turn around.” Perhaps they could have used fewer words, but you can see how their message did not represent what was going on at all. Due to the simultaneous nature of the events (there was also a 5K and 3 different bike rides going on), people were running and riding in both directions, and this became quite tricky with cars trying to go down the road as well. There weren’t any cars at this point, but I’d like to see how it would have worked if runners, bikers, and a car would have encountered the one lane bridge that was part of the course at the same time. The worst thing that probably happened because of this was that as I was leaving, an oversized load that was literally hauling a small barn pulled right up to the finish line! I did not see the outcome of this, but as Kris and I walked back to the car, we saw a cop, lights flashing, driving up to the race. This was at about the 2:30 mark so I’m sure lots of people were still trying to finish the race in this mess. They did do a good job at having people to direct traffic at intersections, though, to be fair.
Now, on to the good! The course was very well marked (I was never confused about where to go) and they had a lot of volunteers and aid stations. I had trained myself to carry my own water and nutrition because the availability of it at the race seemed limited (the website implied there would be 2 water/bathroom stops and said little about nutrition) but they had water/gatorade stations about every other mile and several types of gels available at the near halfway point (it was the turnaround point for the route, about 5.5 miles in).They also had promised a brunch, and my hopes were not high for it (I was imagining some bananas, bagels, and water) but they had tons of different foods – donuts, bagels, fruit, PB&J, breakfast sandwiches, granola bars, bags of chips and pretzels, and lots of different beverages. I also got very cool stuff! The t-shirts they gave out (which I picked up at the very well organized packet pick up the night before) were not t-shirts but tech shirts! All of the finishers also got a medal and an ice cold towel (wasn’t expecting the towel, but was very thankful for it). I was very impressed with all of the amenities and swag, considering that registration for this race was only like $40 – this even must have a great group of volunteers and sponsors!
- Good hydration and nutrition amenities (especially post-race)
- Fancy swag
- Fairly cheap for a half-marathon
- Course was very scenic (there were literally barnyard animals watching us as we ran past farms)
- Having runners and cyclists going in both directions allowed for mutual encouragement
- Having a computer displaying gun times near the end allowed you to see results very quickly
- Course was more difficult than I expected
- Roads were a little crowded with cars, cyclists, and runners trying to share country roads
- Road closures not handled well
- Start/Finish of race poorly organized
- I don’t think there were any photographers, so my only pic is Kris getting my back as I ran through the finish (could not really sit on the other side of the finish line due to amenity locations)
Overall Assessment: Would do again! I would love to go back and do this race for years to come if I am in the area – it was a really pretty course and the race was very cheap and overall a good experience. However, next year, Kris and I are thinking of doing one of the bike “tours” (they aren’t races, just scenic organized rides) together. They have three different events – 33, 48, or 62 miles, so we will have to see which one we are up to by next summer! Perhaps some day I’ll even have a chance to do the “endurance challenge” – finish the half marathon then hop on a bike to ride any of the three cycling events! If I want to start at the same time as him, though, I won’t be able to do the half. That’s ok, though – there are tons of half marathons I can run, but very few biking events I could do with my husband by my side!
Edit: My husband has informed me that there was in fact a race photographer, and actually, upon closer inspection, I can see him in my finish line photo *facepalm.* I just never heard anything about photos from the race organizers or actually saw my picture be taken, so I assumed there was not. Here’s hoping there is a good photo of me!