2018 Pittsburgh Half Marathon Recap – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

On May 6th, I ran my 15th ever half marathon, and my 6th ever half marathon in Pittsburgh.  If you follow my blog at all, you know that the Pittsburgh half is my favorite race ever.  It was the first half I ever ran in 2011, and the first (and only) full I ever ran in 2014, so it is a race very near and dear to me.  I look forward to running it every year.  I missed running it in 2017 because my dear daughter was born on that day (although I’m not complaining at all about that)– so I was really looking forward to returning this year!  Also, 13.1 is my favorite race distance, and I haven’t had the opportunity to run a half since 2016, so this race marked my “triumphant” return to half marathon-ing.

Each year since my younger brother started running in 2012, we train for and run this half together (besides 2017, of course).  This year was a bit different because the weather and our schedules didn’t give us many chances to train together, but we still spent the weekend together for the race!

Any big race in any big city requires a certain amount of planning and logistics to make sure things go smoothly, and Pittsburgh is no different.  Over the years, we have developed a fairly steady routine for the entire weekend that works for us, and we didn’t even think to deviate from our plan this year.

On Saturday, we left home around noon to head for the expo downtown.  We grabbed a quick lunch at GetGo on the way and were at the expo by 1:30.  Packet pickup was easy as always, and we were both thrilled that we actually got shirts in our size this year (a few years ago they ran out of shirts in the appropriate sizes; I’m not even sure how that happened).  Since we were so early, we did a little browsing and a little shopping before leaving the expo.

We made a quick stop at the mall so my brother could pick up some BCAA’s because he had forgotten his at home (he swears by drinking them before any workout), then we headed to our favorite carbo-loading spot for dinner– Monte Cello’s!  We found this gem a few years ago while looking for a good Italian spot in the North Hills, and it’s become a staple of our race weekend each year.  We shared a deep dish pizza (heavy on the carbs) and each ordered a beer to wash it down (also heavy on the carbs- right?!).

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After dinner, we stopped at Panera to pick up our race morning bagels before heading to the hotel.  We both love Panera Cinnamon Crunch bagels with peanut butter before any half marathon, so I always order two of them ahead of time just to make sure they don’t run out before we are able to get there.

Once we got to the hotel, I unpacked all of my race day essentials just to make sure I wasn’t forgetting anything and was as prepared as possible for the morning.  With a 4:30 a.m. wake up call, I knew my brain wouldn’t be processing things well enough to make sure I didn’t forget anything important, haha.  The weather forecast for the start was 55 degrees with a chance of rain, and I wasn’t sure what to wear so I packed a little bit of everything.  If it were 55 degrees with NO rain, I would have worn a tank top and capris with no question.  That rain in the forecast was throwing me off, though, and I was afraid of getting soaked and cold.  Because I hate being too hot when I’m running, I decided on a tank and capris anyways and just hoped that the rain would decide to hold off at least until late morning.

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The morning of the race, we were en route by 5:45 a.m. and parked on the North Shore by 6:00 a.m.  I like to get there early in case we hit traffic and to make sure we have plenty of time to wait in line for the restrooms, but we had no problems with either.  After taking the “T” to the start line area, we actually had time to relax and casually make our way to our corral.  Not rushing is always a good thing, especially at a race with 30,000 people.

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Corral B Excitement

We were in Corral B, so we didn’t have to wait too long to cross the start line.  Thankfully– since I’m not known for being a patient person, especially before a race when my anxiety levels are at an all-time high, haha.  I waited until this point to turn my Garmin on, which was a mistake.  I’m not sure if it was because of all the tall buildings surrounding us or because everyone in the general area was using their Garmin at the same time, but my GPS could not locate a signal despite trying the entire time we were waiting in the corral.  In fact, it didn’t locate a signal until we were almost at the first mile marker– I was so disappointed.

Staring at the my Garmin the entire first mile did make it go by quickly, though, so at least I had that going for me.  Ha.  I ran Mile 1 at a slightly uncomfortable pace but had no clue what it was.  Not a good way to start a race, at least not for me.  Since I’ve been out of practice at running for so long, I never know what my pace is or if I’m going too fast or too slow.  I count on my Garmin to keep me on track with what I’ve determined I’m capable of doing, at least until I am back in the routine of running regularly and figuring out my “new normal.” I used to love running by feel, but I’ve lost touch with what running 13.1 miles is supposed to “feel” like.  When my Garmin finally started working, it was showing an average 9:30 pace.  That was a little faster than my 10:00 completely-arbitrary-goal-pace, but I felt pretty decent so I decided to try to keep it up.

My brother stuck with me the first three miles or so before taking off ahead of me.  I was glad to see him go because I knew he was capable of a much faster pace and knew he wouldn’t be happy if he didn’t push himself to finish in the best time possible.

The first six to seven miles felt pretty good.  This part of the course was different this year than in previous years.  We ran past the stadiums and casino, which was an exciting change of scenery.  I was able to maintain a 9:30-10:00 pace the entire time, but I knew I was pushing it.  I knew I would eventually have to slow down, but for the time being I was able to hold that pace, so I kept pushing it.  I felt unusually warm and thirsty for such a cool day despite making it a point to stay hydrated the day before (with the exception of the one beer at dinner).  I grabbed a quick drink of water at the 4-mile water stop, and I took 3 Shot Bloks and water at the 6-mile water stop.

When we came into the West End Circle (always my favorite part of the race– the crowd here is always SO much fun) around Mile 7, something changed drastically.  I became very thirsty, and my legs started to feel heavy even though I had just eaten some Shot Bloks.  Usually by this point the Shot Bloks would have kicked in and I would have felt like I was running on air, but that wasn’t the case.  Whatever my body was doing felt very foreign to me.

Typically I carry a water bottle with me when I run a half, but I opted to leave it behind that day because it was so cool outside and I knew there were water stops every two miles on the course.  With nothing to drink, I trudged along to the next water stop at Mile 8, where I took a huge gulp of Gatorade and chased it with a huge gulp of water.  I know better than to drink that much liquid when I’m racing, but I was THIRSTY.  So thirsty.  And my legs felt like cement pillars.  I decided to stop and use the restroom here to give my body a chance to absorb the Gatorade because I knew I needed it.

After my restroom break, I hopped back on the course full of optimism.  I expected to feel like a new person and finish out the race at the 9:30-10:00 pace that I had started with.  I had run enough half marathons to know the magical powers of Gatorade and Shot Bloks, haha.

What happened though was exactly the opposite.  My legs were heavy, my mouth was dry, and my infamous side stitches had now joined the party.  Ugh.  I knew right away that my race was shot, and I also knew that I still had five miles to go before I crossed the finish line.  I can normally find a way to mentally power through a tough spot in any race, but not this time.  Something was different than any other difficult race that I have ever run, and I still don’t know what it was.  I knew I wasn’t bouncing back from whatever was ailing me.  I stopped.  I walked.  I cried.  I was angry.  I was sad.  I looked around to see if any medical tents were nearby because I didn’t want to finish the race.  I didn’t think I could.  Then I thought about my girls and how disappointed I was in myself for failing to be the kind of role model that they deserve.  Then I cried some more.  My mind just kinda went numb.

I’ll spare you the details of the next five miles of the race because they aren’t pretty.  I didn’t bounce back.  I walked more than I ran, even though walking didn’t help me feel better.  I felt so awful that I truly don’t recall what was going through my mind.  Near Mile 12, the strangest thing of all happened– I got cold.  I don’t know if it’s because I was walking so much that my core body temperature had cooled down, or if I had reached a point of dehydration that no runner should ever reach (although I didn’t think of that until later), but it wasn’t typical for me.  Against my better judgment, I powered through to the finish line with what must have been the most unpleasant look on my face.  I finished (in 2:13:59), but I can’t even say I was happy about it.

After making my way through the finish line area and taking in a lot of liquids in the process, I met up with my brother.  I found out he finished in just under 2 hours, which is fantastic!!  I am so proud of his finish time!

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I was feeling a little better at this point, so we headed to the finish line festival to check out the festivities.  I swung in the VIP tent and picked up my complimentary Chipotle burrito and special running club medallion.  This is the first year I joined the “Running Club Rally” and had access to the VIP tent, and let’s just say the free Chipotle makes it sooo worth it.

Looking back, I realize I probably should have taken a DNF and gotten medical attention once I figured out something didn’t feel right.  I wasn’t thinking straight by that point in the race because of all the endorphins I had banked in the first seven miles, or else that’s what I would have done.  If anything like this would ever happen again, I’m not hesitating to slow it down and assess what’s going on with my body and whether or not it’s smart to try to finish the race.

All of this was so uncharacteristic of me.  I am still trying to figure out what happened and how it could have been prevented– did I start off too fast?  Did I not hydrate properly in the days leading up to the race?  Am I just not in as good of shape as I thought I was?  I really don’t know.  I have another half marathon coming up in 3 weeks, and to say I’m a little nervous about it is an understatement.  I’m planning on taking it easy and listening to my body; hopefully there are no issues like I had in Pittsburgh.

As for Pittsburgh itself, I can’t say enough good things about this race, despite the fact that my personal race was hell.  Everything about this race– from the scenic course to the crowd support to the finish line festivities– is SO much fun.  I love running across the bridges and seeing all the landmarks that Pittsburgh is famous for in one run.  It’s still my favorite race ever, and I will be back next year to take it on once again– hopefully with better results than I had this year.

 

 

 

 

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My October Running Update – PR’s All Around!

Wow, I just realized it’s been weeks since my last post.  And October has been such a busy month for running– shame on me for not keeping you in the loop!!  Life has been so crazy the past few weeks, and I haven’t had much time to write!!  Here’s a brief update of what I’ve been up to the past few weeks…

  • One week after my horrific half marathon in Johnstown, PA, I ran a 5K and got a PR!!  Wahoo!!  Each October, my friends and I run an out-and-back 5K on a local bike trail.  The 5K is always held on the weekend when, in my opinion, the beautiful bright colors of the area’s fall foliage are at their peak.  The race was much warmer this year (high 50-s I’d guess) than in the past (high 30-s I’d guess) and the sun was shining– so it was perfect fall running weather.  Since this is most likely one of my last 5K’s of the year, I was determined to PR, and I was thrilled when I did.  My finish time ended up being 24:57– almost an entire minute faster than my previous PR!  I also won first in my age group.  Granted, I was the only one in my age group (this is a small race), but I still feel like I have bragging rights. =)  The 5K is also held during the small town’s annual buckwheat festival– so we run our 3.1 miles then head over to the all-you-can-eat buckwheat supper!!  I can never let that calorie deficit sit for too long.
  • The following weekend, I went on a mini-road trip to Gettysburg, PA with my boyfriend, my brother, my bestest running friend Emily, and her husband.  My boyfriend and I went to Gettysburg on vacation this summer and we loved it, so when we heard that a half marathon was held there in October, “we” (i.e. “I”) immediately planned to go back.  We packed up the camper and left Friday night to make a fun-filled weekend out of the race.  If you aren’t familiar with the Gettysburg Blue Gray Half, you MUST check it out.  The race, of course, has a Civil War theme where you choose to run for either the North or the South.  All of the runners on whichever “team” wins gets a commemorative mug!!  The race shirts are also colored blue or gray depending on which side you choose to run for.  Also, the age group winners in both the half marathon and 5K (yes, there’s a 5K too) get FRESH BAKED APPLE PIES as an award.  What race can beat that?!

    On Friday night we lit a campfire and relaxed with a few beverages.  On Saturday, we woke up early, had a filling breakfast, and headed out on our bicycles to explore the battlefields.  If you ever go to Gettysburg and want to do your own tour of the battlefields– the bicycle is a great way to go.  24 (I believe) miles of paved, rolling-hill, slow-moving-traffic roads to bike on.  You get a great workout and a great view of the scenery.

    My boyfriend and me at one of the Gettysburg monuments.

    My boyfriend and me at one of the Gettysburg monuments.

    In the afternoon, we headed to packet pickup to get our bibs and race shirts.  Me, my brother, and Emily were running the half marathon.  My boyfriend and Emily’s husband were running the 5K.  Because we chose to run for the North, our half marathon shirts were long-sleeved blue tech shirts.  I was super impressed with their quality!  There was no race expo per-say, but the local running store was set up to sell at packet pickup, which made it really convenient for people needing last-minute items before the race.

    After packet pickup, we carbo-loaded at O’Rourkes Eatery– a delicious Irish pub right in the heart of Gettysburg.  My boyfriend and I ate here on our first trip to Gettysburg and were glad to return.

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    The race started at 9 a.m. on Sunday morning.  Since it was a relatively-small race (the half was capped at 1,000 runners and the 5K was capped at 500) and we were staying so close to the start, we didn’t leave the campground until 8 a.m. and still had plenty of time to check our bags and hit the porta-potties before the gun went off.

    It was a perfectly sunny, chilly fall day– not too hot and not too cold.  Great running weather!  The race itself was beautiful.  13.1 miles of pavement winding through the farmlands of rural Gettysburg.  To some people, that might not sound very appealing– but for a small-town country girl like me, I was in heaven.  The course was never crowded with the exception of maybe the first .25 miles, and it consisted of flat areas with rolling hills here-and-there.  Nothing too extreme.  The volunteers did a fantastic job and the spectators, though few and far between, we extremely supportive & encouraging.

    Because I may or may not have eaten wayyy too much the night before, I uncomfortably carried a “food baby” for the first few miles of the race.  I was worried that my food baby might eventually turn into full-blown stomach cramps/side stitches, so I didn’t move too swiftly at the beginning of the race.  Luckily, by mile 5 my stomach pain subsided, and I was moving easily-breezily along.

    Around mile 8 or 9, my energy levels started zapping and my legs began to feel heavy.  Right around there, we ran past Gettysburg High School, which was the one spot in the course populated with whooping, yelling spectators.  For me, this crowd support almost seemed strategically placed– it occurred right at a point where I needed the extra motivation!!  I popped a few Honey Stingers and pushed forward with a little more energy than before.

    At the mile 10 water station, I turned off my headphones and stopped for a drink of water.  I wasn’t wearing a GPS and the miles didn’t have timing clocks, so I had no idea what my finish time might be.  While I was drinking/walking, I overheard a woman tell her friend that we were currently at an 8:40 pace.  What?!?  When I overheard that, I knew I would PR if I could just bust out another 5K at my current pace.

    So, I pushed through the last three point one miles (which, for me, are always the toughest) at a pace which was probably actually faster than I had been running for the first ten miles.  When I saw the finish line (which was at the top of a hill, eww!), I knew I had finally achieved my goal of a sub-2-hour half marathon.  My finish time ended up being 1:58:28.  A PR by more than two minutes!!  I was so excited!

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    The post race refreshments consisted of all sorts of deliciousness, from ginormous bagels to deli sub sandwiches.  Very impressive!  After grabbing some snacks and the commemorative mug we won from running on the “winning” side, we took off for lunch at Ruby Tuesday’s then took off for home.  Everything about our weekend, from the camping fun to the half marathon, made for such a great weekend.  We are definitely planning on going back next year to do this half again!!

Well, there you have it.  That’s what I’ve been up to in October!!  I have a few races in November then am planning to focus on cross-training until full marathon training starts at the end of December.

Does anyone have any fun races coming up in November??   

Weekend Fitness Recap

Summer is in full swing here in Pennsylvania, which makes it much easier to get moving and stay active.  When the weather is nice, I try to get out and enjoy the sunshine & warm temperatures as often as possible.

On Friday night, I ran one of my favorite local races with my bestest running friend Emily– a 4th of July 5-miler.  5-mile and 10K are my favorite race distances to run!  So I am always sure to sign up for this race whenever registration rolls around.

The weather here has been crazy lately.  The forecast is full of both rain and sunshine, and you never know when each is going to hit throughout the day.  I kept an eye on the race forecast throughout the day on Friday– there was a 40% chance of thunderstorms right at 7 o’clock when the race was to begin.  Lovely.  I don’t mind running in the rain, but lightning/thunder = different story.  We decided to take our chances and head to the race anyways.  Even if it was lightning, we had registered for the race and would at least get our race t-shirt!

There was sunshine at my house when we left, but by the time we got to the race the sky was BLACK.  I knew it was going to storm.  We had just enough time to pick up our packets and timing chips before this happened:

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Total downpour– wind, thunder, and lightning included.

My optimism wasn’t deterred, though.  We still had 1/2 hour before the race, and I was hopeful that the weather would clear up.  And guess what– it did!  We ended up having BEAUTIFUL weather for the race!  Mid seventies, low humidity, and sunny.  I was really glad that we decided to run.

The weather was ridiculously hot for this particular race the past two years (I believe it was 91 degrees and humid last year when I ran it), so I was anxious to see how I would do with more agreeable weather.

The course was challenging.  It was mostly uphill until about mile 3, and then it was either downhill (although I feel the downhills weren’t nearly long enough to compensate for the uphills at the beginning) or flat.  I don’t know about you, but if a race is hilly, I’d much prefer the hills to be at the beginning of the course– the hills were a great, er, warm-up and it made the last few miles seem like a breeze.

The finish line of the race was located on a high school track with spectators cheering on the runners, which always makes me feel like some sort of super runner rockstar.  I always tend to sprint to the finish of my races, but even more so if they end on a track.  So, when I saw the finish line, I took off.

When I started sprinting, I passed by one of my coworkers.  I didn’t do it with the intent to pass her– like I said, I always sprint at the end of my races because I want to finish strong and know that I did my personal best.  Well, apparently I struck a nerve, because once I passed her it didn’t take long for her to come storming by me.  I knew immediately that I offended her.  She beat me by 2 seconds; which I could care less about.  Apparently that 2 seconds was important to her, because she had the nerve to tell me afterwards that she “saw me blow by her” and that there was NO WAY she was letting ME beat HER (in the most annoyed, arrogant tone you can imagine).  Like I am so slow that she could never live with herself if I crossed ahead of her.  I’ve never been so offended in my life.  I feel like it’s terrible sportsmanship to run with the sole intent to beat others.  It’s just my opinion, but I feel like recreational runners such as myself and my coworker should only be out to beat ourselves when it comes to races (What’s your opinion on that?).  We aren’t front-of-the-pack runners.  She should have been pushing her limits at the finish line on her own; I shouldn’t have been the driving force behind her sprint towards the finish. 

ANYWAYS, I crossed the finish line at 44:08 with an average pace of 8:49.  That’s five minutes faster than my time last year– wahoo!  I was ecstatic when I saw the final results.

On Saturday, I woke up with one goal in mind = LEG DAY.  You might know from my previous posts that I dread and despise leg day.  If you don’t– well, just know that I dread and despise leg day.  I have to talk myself into it every time.  I decided that it had to be done on Saturday morning, and I forced myself to the gym.  I did regular squats, front squats, squat jumps, negative hamstring curls, stiff leg deadlifts, regular squats (again), and lunges.  Yikes.   It was mentally and physically painful (especially after spin class Thursday and my 5-mile, hilly race on Friday), but I was glad that I did it once I was finished.  I always feel stronger overall and thinner when I lift my legs consistently.

Afterwards, I went home and concocted a post-workout meal with things I had in my fridge (which wasn’t much– I needed to go grocery shopping!).  I made an egg white “omelet” with garden-fresh tomatoes, onions, salt, pepper, and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.  It might look kinda, um, interesting, but it was delicious:

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Sunday was going to be my “rest” day since my legs were throbbing from the activities of the three day prior, but I ended up going on a short bike ride with my older brother.  We just went on our local trail, so it wasn’t too intense.  It was nice to get some use out of my bike and to spend some quality time with my older brother, though.  =)

What active things did you do this weekend?

Decker’s Creek Trail Half Marathon Recap

On 6/1 (this post is a little delayed, I know), I ran in the Decker’s Creek Trail Half Marathon in Morgantown, West Virginia.  This was my THIRD half marathon of 2013, all three held in different states!!  That’s more half marathons than I’ve ever ran in one year, and I’m still planning to do at least one or two more before 2014 arrives.

If you’re not familiar with the Decker’s Creek Trail Half Marathon, it’s a smaller one– the field is limited to a maximum of 600 participants.  I found out about this half marathon when I was searching for a replacement race for the Rock ‘n Roll Pittsburgh half, which I had signed up to run in August before it was cancelled unexpectedly.  I was drawn to the Decker’s Creek half for several reasons.  The first was its location– one of my best friends grew up in Morgantown, and I’ve grown fond of the town over the years from my visits to see her.  I hadn’t been there in a few years and was intrigued at the thought of returning there to run a race.  Plus, the half was on a wooded trail, and WV has some of the most beautiful scenery around (I’m a total country girl at heart).  I was also drawn to the race because of the price– $50 isn’t bad at all for a 13.1 race distance.  The deal-sealing factor was the course description– a 13.1 mile downhill descent into Morgantown.  The word “downhill” sure sounded a lot like “PR” to me.  Plus, the course was not out-and-back on the trail (we were bussed from the finish line to the start line to begin) as most trail races are.  I prefer that as opposed to a 6.55 mile out, 6.55 mile back course.  Needless to say, I didn’t hesitate to sign up for the race right away.  I was able to talk my bestest running friend Emily into signing up, too!

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Since I don’t live too far from Morgantown, we decided to make the morning commute to the race instead of splurging on a hotel room the night before.  Emily arrived at my house bright-and-early, around 5:30 a.m.  We made a pit stop at Sheetz for coffee and ate our Panera bagels (with peanut butter, of course) on the way.  Since we had a long drive, packet pickup, and a bus trip to the start line before we actually started the race, we didn’t want to eat too early and run out of fuel early on.

We found the race easily and packet pickup was held near a parking garage, so arriving and parking went very smoothly.  One thing I dread about any new race is finding my way around and worrying about where to park– there were no issues here!

Since the race is smaller, there was no pre-race expo or packet pickup.  Everything had to be done the morning of the race.  The lines for packet pickup were very long, and when I first saw them I didn’t think there was any way we would make it to the start line on time.  However, packet pickup was well-organized, so the lines moved along quickly and we had no issues arriving to the shuttle bus on time.  Kudos to the race organizers for that!

We were shuttled to the start line area, where we found a decent lineup of portable toilets.  Wahoo! (it’s the smallest things that make the biggest difference in distance running).  There was only one portable toilet stop along the course at MILE 7!!  That’s terrifying to me, the girl who has-to-go by mile 3 if she’s going-to-go at all.  So I made sure to pay a visit to the portable toilets before heading down the trail to the start line.  We arrived just in time for our 8:45 a.m. gun to go off.

The race, although a smaller field, had two waves of start times.  Even with the staggered start, there was still a lot of congestion for the first few miles of the course.  The trail was more narrow than I expected, but it was stunningly beautiful!  I didn’t mind the slower start at all because it gave me a chance to warm up as well as the chance to look around at the creek, rock formations, and greenery around me.  Beautiful.

The sun was shining that day and the temperature was relatively warm, but the trees kept the trail shaded and a comfortable temperature for running (for the first 10 miles at least… more on that final-3.1-mile shocker later).

The outfit that I chose (my super-cheap, super cute tank from Wal-Mart and my Brooks Infiniti Tight shorts) was very comfortable– I’m so pleased and impressed with those cheap tanks I found at Wal-Mart!

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My iFitness belt, which I wore to carry water, gels, and my car keys, was NOT cooperating that day, though.  I’m not sure why– I’ve worn it in other races with no issues.  For some reason, it kept riding up, and I was continually adjusting it.

Even though we tried to eat our breakfast later than usual, I still feel like I ate too early.  By mile 6, my legs were feeling tired and I was starting to hit a wall.  I decided I needed to eat my first gel at the next water stop along the course, a few miles earlier than usual.  I had packed three gels– two in the handy loops on the outside of my belt, and one in the zippered pouch.  When I saw a water station approaching, I reached for a gel from the loops of my belt.  Guess what!  NO GELS TO BE FOUND!  They must have fallen off my belt at some point from my constant tugging and adjusting, and I hadn’t noticed.  I panicked.  I wasn’t even halfway done with the race and I only had the one gel in my zippered pouch to last me.  And I was already tired.  I had no idea what to expect for the last half of the race.

I decided to hold off until mile 8 to eat HALF of my one-and-only gel, then save the other half for whenever I needed it in the last 5 miles of the race.  I was very fortunate that there were water stops approximately every 2 miles, and every other water stop had Gatorade as well (good job race organizers!).  I had never drank anything but water & gels during a race before, but I knew it’d be in my best interest to take advantage of the Gatorade every chance I could get.  So that’s what I did.

I didn’t feel great using this technique, but I felt “okay” up until mile 10.  At this point, the shaded, crushed limestone trail transformed into an exposed, sun-soaking asphalt trail through town.  It was 84 degrees outside and sunny.  I knew right away that these last three miles were going to be HOT and going to be DIFFICULT.  I was already half-loopy (you distance runners know exactly what I’m talking about) at this point from lack of fuel.  I expected nothing but to be completely-loopy by the time I saw the finish line.

And completely-loopy pretty much sums up the last three miles of the race for me.  I walked more than I ever have during a half marathon because I just had to.  I was so tired!  And the heat was really getting to me.  I’m not sure if everyone was having the same last-3.1 experience as me, or if my experience was primarily caused by lack of carbohydrates. The last 3 miles seemed like an eternity to me; I lost track of time.  When I found some energy, I’d run as long as I could, then I’d walk again.  I finished my last half-of-a-gel and kept my water bottle in my hand, drinking frequently.  I was still enjoying myself– I was running, after all– but I was struggling.  I knew I had to be mentally tough enough to get to the finish line, and I knew I’d only be tougher than before once I did.  So I did all that I could to keep moving.  I was running purely on willpower and faith at that point.  And when I crossed that finish line, I felt so many different emotions– joy, sadness, relief, defeat, victory, accomplishment… I almost teared up for no particular reason.  And that’s why I love running– that inexplicable feeling you get when you conquer obstacles that you never thought you could conquer.  If you are a runner, you know the feeling I’m talking about.

"In the zone" for sure!

“In the zone” for sure!

My finish time was 2:07:07.8, 39 of 101 in my age group and 298 of 591 overall.  I was about 7 minutes away from my sought-after PR, but I was beyond thrilled with my time!  That was my second fastest half marathon time ever.  No disappointment at all considering the conditions.

Will I do this half marathon again?  ABSOLUTELY.  Even though I didn’t feel well, the half marathon itself was great.  Here’s why I liked it so much:

  • The race was very well-organized.  Kudos to the race directors for such great planning– everything from the parking to the packet to the shuttle buses to the start line to the water stations to the finish line was amazing.  Great job!
  • The scenery was beautiful and the trail was well-maintained.  There are some beautiful wooded areas where I live, and I must say this trail was right-up-there with some of the most beautiful areas I’ve seen.  Decker’s Creek was always visible off to the right, rocky cliffs and lush green areas were always visible to the left, and the trail was shaded by abundant trees. I’m sure the fact that the sun was shining only enhanced the beauty of the scenery.
  • Volunteers were handing out water bottles as soon as you crossed the finish line.  I seriously could have hugged the lady that handed me a cold bottle of water!!
  • The shirts were amazing.  And you know how important that is!
  • Live results were posted immediately.  I knew my official time as soon as I could get to my smartphone browser.  To me, that’s a highly desirable quality in a race.
  • There’s a finish line festival.  Although I wasn’t able to stick around for the festival, it looked like a lot of fun!  I’m pretty sure there were free drinks (ahem, beer) afterwards for runners.  That’s my kind of post-race party!

If you enjoy smaller half marathons or half marathons of all sizes, you should definitely consider the Decker’s Creek Trail Half!  I’ll see you there next year! =)