55F and overcast at start. Goal was to run a consistent 8:25 or so in order to come in under my goal of 1:50. I didn't quite make it, but this was still a great PR and I feel good about the race. Edit: 267 out of 729 total runners and 26 out of 63 in AG.
Yesterday, my wife and I drove out to Elite Runners & Walkers store to pick up my race packet and I talked her into getting some walking shoes since she committed to the 1 mile walk/run with her Goal Group at the Dirt Monster race in November. To get ready, she's going to walk the dog every day, so we got her some nice Asics 2150s in purple. She's excited about them and I'm proud of her for setting that goal! The kids still haven't decided if they want to volunteer again or do the 1 mile walk/run. I'll be running the 5mi race and it could be a AG finish for me since it's a pretty small race. lol Then we hit Olive Garden last night for their Never Ending Pasta Bowl and we came home and went to bed.
The race started at 8am out in Robinson, PA, which is about a 25 min drive from home. Getting everyone up and rolling (including myself) was a little challenging, but we were out the door by 6:20am. To "reward" the fam for getting up, we hit McDonalds for breakfast on the way. We scouted out their parking location then went to the top of the hill where the start was to drop me off. They would be at about the 0.8mi point and at the finish which would be perfect for picture taking.
I just needed to get my timing chip and use the Porta Potty and get some warm up in. I got my timing chip at about 7:30am then looked for the line for the POP. It was long too! Crap. I knew if I didn't use it now, I'd regret it on the course since I was going to have to use it in the next 2 hours. By the time I got through the POP, it was about 10 min before the race. I started walking over to the start line and saw my old boss from work and his wife. His wife is a pretty good runner (she runs about a 4:00 marathon and ran Boston this last year), but he is a "plodder" (his word, not mine). She was shooting for a 1:50 or under and he was looking to do 2:15 or so. They both ran the Steelers 5k last weekend (her: 24:54, him: 27:34), which I just looked up. I figured maybe I'd stick with her if I caught up to her (she headed towards the front to avoid fighting people on the trail). I wasn't going to get in any warm up in the next 3 mins, so we chatted some and I did a little stretching. I assumed they'd have the mats out to start the chip timing anyways, so it wasn't a huge deal to be a little farther back.
The gun goes off, and I bid my friend goodbye and start heading down the hill, waiting for the mats. There weren't any, so I just started the Garmin. I guess everyone had the same start time. Oh well, no biggie. There was a large mass of people going down this 0.8mi hill and everyone seemed to just be on cruise control. I hadn't warmed up well, so I took it easy and used that as my warm up. My plan was to give my long sleeved t-shirt and cell phone (I had been giving the fam updates on when it actually started, etc), but opted to keep the cell phone so I could let them know how I was doing and give them an idea of when to be at the finish.
Here's me at the hand-off. A short hello and I was off again:
Mile 1 (9:09): Coming down the hill and the 0.2 mi onto the trail was just warm up and the trail was pretty narrow for all the people running on it. I restrained from doing a bunch of weaving to get around people. I had plenty of time left to work my way up, but there were several times I chose to go onto the grass and risk a twisted ankle to get around some people. Fortunately, I didn't have any problems.
From the 1 mile point on, the course is a 6 mi out and 6.1 back on the crushed limestone surface. It was more tightly packed than the trail I run downtown which I was happy about. Not much foot pushoff slippage. That always frustrates me since I feel like I'm wasting some energy.
Mile 2 - 7 (8:19, 8:20, 8:00, 8:24, 8:37, 8:23): From where you turn onto the trail to the turn around at mile 7, it's a slight uphill incline. It's not that noticeable until it gets slightly steeper at about mile 6, but you can tell it's not flat. That last mile seems like it will never end. The trail is beautiful and with the trees still full of leaves, it stayed shaded for most of the run. During mile 2, I wished I had brought my thin mittens since my hands were cold and they never really warmed up (my son commented on it after the race when he took my hand walking to the car). My texts to my wife were barely understandable (texting while running is hard) and made worse by cold fingers. I could just send a text "5mi im good". I think she figured out most of them.
Knowing that my boss' wife was shooting for my goal, when I caught up to her at about 2.5mi, I just trailed her for a little while. But she was going about 8:40 and I knew I needed to be faster than that. I passed her and figured she'd catch me on the flip side.
There's this really cool tunnel you run through at about mile 4. It goes through a big hill and used to be used to be part of the railroad track. Funny thing was that as everyone reached about 3/4 of the way through it, you'd hear all these Garmins beep because they had lost the satellite signal. Up to that point, the Garmin was right on at their mile markers. After that, it would say the mile was about 50m before the marker on the way out, then 100m before the marker after going through it on the way back. A little annoying, but I was using it more for pace and I had it set to give me 0.5mi splits anyways so I didn't care too much.
I felt great on the way out, was pumped watching the runners coming back towards us after their turn around, and I was feeling like I could keep this up no problem. I was passing people and hadn't been passed since mile 1. In fact, it felt too easy at the turn around. My only discomfort was the fine gravel in my shoes and the blister that I could feel developing on the outside/under my left big toe. I'm not sure if it was more the rubbing on the shoe or the grittiness of the gravel that was making my blister develop.
Mile 8 - 10 (7:54, 7:44, 7:45): I was feeling so good at the turn around and even knowing full well that I still had half the race to go, I decided I wanted to kick it up a little. I could feel the downhill during this first mile so I started to pick it up some, then I just maintained that pace for another 2. I started to pass a lot more runners and still wasn't being passed. I saw my boss' wife around the 8mi mark and my boss a while after that. She didn't recognize me, I don't think, since I had had on my long sleeved white t-shirt when she met me at the start.
Mile 11 - finish (8:01, 8:34, 8:50): The miles were getting tougher - slowing down! Dang it! Terrain was pretty flat, but I was tiring. I hung on through the tunnel but once I was through there, I walked for about 10 seconds. This is when Speedy Old Guy (SOG) passed me at a pretty fast clip. Once he was past me about 20m, he stopped and walked. I thought that was odd. So I started running again. I had been passed by a few people which I knew would happen when I walked, but I had to rest for a second. I took off again and passed SOG a short time later. Every maybe 1/4 mi, SOG would sprint past me and stop a ways ahead and walk. It was kinda weird. This went on until the end of the race. I don't think he had me targeted, but it felt like it.
The last two miles were tough. I walked probably 30 seconds total during these miles and my legs were dead. I was being passed by a few more people, but I was OK with that, all things considered. I was really wishing I had prepared a little better for this Half with some longer runs at this point. I just kept pushing through but wasn't able to kick much at all at the end. I saw the time and was happy with it. It was a PR and a good one at that. I felt like I redeemed myself from my first two Halfs by getting over a 10min PR, my time was much closer to what I feel like I should have run it in, and I beat SOG, so it's all good. :-)
It was a little sad because they ran out of finishers medals. Apparently, there is another Half coming up next month that's fairly large and they were denied their permits and had to cancel. So they had a lot of last minute registrations for this one and had based their purchase of medals on previous years. They typically have about 600 I think, but apparently they got a lot more. They said they'd be sending them out to the people that didn't get one, but still! For those of us who aren't going to win or AG place, I look forward to that token of my achievement. I would have been ticked if I hadn't gotten one at the finish!
Loved the race, the course was great, and the weather was excellent! Many thanks to my family for getting up so early and just hanging out for 2 hours while I ran. They're awesome!!!
Here's some pics:
Finishing! (Yes, I got chicked. She was standing in the POP line next to me and I chatted with her husband/boyfriend. She didn't say a word to me. I wondered if she spoke english or not.)
An "I'm so glad I'm done" photo:
Stretch-out after the race. Hurt so good!
And the final photo by the flags: