Now, for the good stuff!
Yesterday Shane and I travelled to West Virginia to take part in the Run To Read Half Marathon. I was scheduled for 18 miles anyway so I had no intentions of actually racing. My plan was to run 5 super easy miles right before the race and then run the race as close to 10 minute mile pace as I could depending on how I felt.
We had a fast trip and pulled in to Prickett's Fort just after noon. We found the bathroom and then picked up our packets. No T-shirt, no finisher's medal, no goodies in the bag, just a hat and gloves. I guess I should have realized that considering the race only cost $25. The volunteers also parked Shane and I about 5 feet from the edge of the river which made me really uncomfortable. I would kind of like to pay off my vehicle before I let it get swept away by a freak flood or something.
View from our parking spot
I asked a volunteer for some directions about which way the race ran from where we were. They pointed out the path and I headed off to do my warm up. I was disappointed to find my legs felt like lead and my heart rate was sky high for how slowly I was moving. I had plenty of time before the 2PM race start so I just kept moving and taking some pictures of the course I would soon be running with 400 of our closest friends.
The running path
This race is nice in that the views are pretty cool. The first part of the race runs a 2.25 mile out and back which goes through a tunnel (which threw my Garmin off by a good bit). Going out it's slightly uphill but it gives you a good boost coming back down on the way back past the start. After you cross the parking lot where the race started you continue on the path over a couple bridges (a little scary with the ice in January) and beside the river. There's another turn around at the 9 mile mark and then the runners make their way back towards the parking lot for the finish.
Running in the hills of West Virginia
After my warm up I headed back to the car to drop my jacket and hydrate and fuel. I expected Shane to be in the car staying warm but he wasn't there. I ate two Shot Bloks and drank some water before I checked my watch. I had less than 15 minutes until start time! Whoops!
I made my way past the fort to the parking lot and lined up at the back of the pack. There were no real directions on paces or walkers being towards the back. I was hoping I was in the right place based on the looks of the people around me. That is until the woman beside me started talking about running Boston. Apparently I think I look a lot faster than I actually am?
The race started only a minute or two late after a couple runners realized they weren't wearing their chips. Doh! I was down to just my INKnBURN denim print pants and peacock long sleeve top plus a hat and gloves and I was COLD! I believe it was about 35 degrees with a wind chill of 28. Getting started felt so good that I went out way too fast. I was passing lots of people despite the uphill grade and I was wondering if maybe I had started too far back. Then I hit the first mile marker and my watch beeped out a 9:11. Whoops!
The really cute mile markers for this race
I backed off and tried to get closer to 10:00 pace. My legs and lungs seemed pretty happy in the 9:30-9:45 range though so I just went with it. It was really odd to be moving so well after such a tough 5 miles right before but I figured I'd be slowing down soon enough. My splits for the first out and back:
Mile 1: 9:11
Mile 2: 9:21*
Mile 3: 9:21*
Mile 4: 9:23
Mile 5: 9:39
* Miles 2 & 3 are averaged because the tunnel screwed up my GPS signal.
As I hit the second out and back portion I lost a little steam and walked through the aid station just after mile 5. I wanted to take a GU but didn't want to take my gloves off. I was just comfortable and I knew that as soon as my hands got cold I would be freezing. I decided to walk the next water station and take one there. However, I started running next to an older man and at the 7+ mile water stop we started talking while we walked and drank and I completely forgot to take my GU. I stayed right behind this man up to the turn around hoping to catch him and passing quite a few people in the process. I was really surprised how many people were quitting and walking back. Splits to the turn around:
Mile 6: 10:05Mile 7: 9:50
Mile 8: 10:04
Mile 9: 10:01
I was pleasantly surprised reviewing these splits. Every other mile is a little bit slower because I walked and drank a little bit. I had been planning to carry my handheld but with aid stations just over 2 miles apart I didn't really see the point. If I had actually been in the frame of mind to race and not walked every aid station I bet I could have put up a really good time! As I came around the turn around I could see the older gentleman in front of me and I decided I would slowly reel him in before I got to the next water stop. It worked perfectly and I caught him at mile 11.
Another section of the trail
We ran together for the next mile or so. He introduced himself as Jim and we didn't chat much because we were both working hard to keep passing the large number of 'walking wounded'. There were a surprising number of people trying this as their first half and a lot of them were under-trained. The looks of desperation and pain on the faces I passed were a little disconcerting. I remember those feelings all too well. Somewhere in mile 12 Jim jumped into a port-o-potty and I was left to continue on my own again. I glanced at my watch and was surprised to see I could still make it under 2:10.
Mile 10: 10:17
Mile 11: 10:34
Mile 12: 9:45
Mile 13: 10:13
Last .23: 8:27 pace
My brain was screaming at me to walk but I told myself there was no time to be a baby now. I pushed on, setting my sights on each person in front of me and slowly working to pass them. Finally there was no one left in front of me and I could see the finish line. I wanted to lay down, I wanted to puke, I wanted to just walk so freaking bad. I threw in one last surge and crossed the mat. I looked at my Garmin and couldn't believe my eyes! 2:09:45!
I stumbled around the finish area for a bit and grabbed a can of Pepsi and a flavored water. I couldn't find any plain water and I really didn't care at the moment what I drank so long as it was wet. I wobbled back up the hill to the visitor center where we were treated to chili and cookies. The chili totally made the lack of medals and shirts worth it.
I finally found Shane a little while later. He had gone to the finish later expecting me to come in around 2:15-2:20 so we just missed each other. He finished in 1:49! I ended up coming in 185/277 finishers and 12/25 for my age group. There were 73 DNF's according to the timing site. I think that they included people who registered but didn't show up maybe? It's hard to believe that many people quit.
In the end I'm thrilled to start off 2013 with a new PR (prior 'official' PR was 2:20) and a great long run. And I have some more big news to share tomorrow. It's going to be a great year!