Monday, July 28, 2014

PA Grand Canyon Half Marathon Race Report

Week 9 of my marathon training plan called for a half marathon. This also happened to fall on the weekend of my dad's 70th birthday, and I had plans to go home to PA to celebrate. So I searched around for a half marathon and low and behold, found this one, in Wellsboro, PA which is about 90 minutes from my dad's house - basically in our backyard by rural PA standards!

I got out of work a bit early on Friday afternoon so that I could drive the 2.5 hours from Rochester to Wellsboro to pick up my packet (race morning packet pickup was not a thing for this race). Then I drove the 90 minutes to my dad's house (stopping at glorious Sheetz in Mansfield on my way). Basically got home at around 8, took a quick shower, and went to bed because I had a 3 am wakeup call the next morning.

3 am?

3 am??


So the race starts on the rim of the "PA Grand Canyon" which is basically a big gorge. I don't recall ever being up there before (apparently I have been) - it was quite nice. ANYWAYS, there was no parking allowed at the start, so everyone had to park at Wellsboro High School and ride a bus for ~30 minutes to the start. Because I registered late, after they had opened additional slots (I found this out after I emailed about a waiting list because the race was closed) I was obligated to take one of the earlier shuttles that they had added to accommodate extra runners. Basically, all shuttles before 5 am were fair game for me. I had no idea if they were policing this but I did NOT want to show up late, not get on a shuttle, and have gone to all of that trouble to have to turn around and drive home. So I woke up at 3, got dressed, got coffee, and left by 3:30. I got to Wellsboro at about 4:45 (driving time is less when no one is on the back roads!) and got on a school bus.

It was pitch black at 5 am, the bus was driving 3 miles per hour up this long, winding hill.. it felt like we were being driven out into the middle of nowhere to be murdered. The bus dropped us off before 6 am (still dark out), in the middle of the woods, by a row of porta potties with a handful of other runners standing around. One tiny light. It was crazy. I kept thinking "WHAT kind of race is this" - especially since there were no porta potty lines, EVER. I hung around until about 6:30 and then I walked the 5 minute walk up a gravelly hill to the rim where the starting line was.

Luckily I had brought a small sling bag with flip flops and I was wearing a long sleeved shirt (it was 50 degrees out) so I didn't freeze too much, and I was able to check my bag. I wasn't even sure there would be a bag check but I figured I could stick my bag somewhere in the woods and probably no one would bother it (maybe a bear would be interested in the Larabar I had stashed in there).

My Garmin would not locate. I had heard this rumor from other runners and it was true. So I guessed I was going to have to run without knowing my pace - I didn't want to take the chance of my Garmin signal dropping in and out mid run. This was worrisome since I have been gunning for a half-marathon PR for this whole year which would be more of a challenge to do if I couldn't see my pace. I switched my Garmin to inside mode (AKA glorified $400 stopwatch mode) and hoped there were mile markers so that I could at least manually lap my mile splits.

We lined up and started promptly at 7 am. I was in 3rd right from the beginning and 1 woman dropped back after about a mile. It was pretty downhill from the start and I was leap frogging for first with another woman. After about 2 miles, we did a 180 around a cone and she dropped me. That was the rest of the race - me in 2nd. The race was very downhill through mile 7 or so. There were some intermittent uphills but I remember thinking "this is going to be trouble when we have to go back up." I am not a great downhill runner so I am sure I lost some time due to that. I also had one mile in there where I ran an 8:30.. which is basically unacceptable but I am sure I just zoned out and wasn't actively "racing" the downhill which I need to force myself to do. I didn't realize it until I hit lap on my watch and saw it. Most of the race was on dirt roads (do you Rochester city people know what those are?) which are fine but traction was not always awesome. The scenery WAS beautiful though! And the weather was perfect. Mid-50s, cloudy, through the woods, with a bit of rain at the beginning. Exactly my type of weather!

I wear my sunglasses at night on overcast days
At mile 8 we doubled back on the course and I could see just how far behind #1 I was (a lot). I could also see that #3 and #4 were not super far behind me so I started to pick it up. I really hammered miles 9-11 and then I started to die a little, plus by this point the whole race was basically uphill. I knew by mile 10 that I would not get my sub 1:40 (AGAIN) but I was determined to stay in 2nd place. I saw the #3 girl right behind me out of the corner of my eye but managed to hold her off and crossed the line about 10 seconds before her at a dead sprint.

I bet that guy was pissed that I sprinted past him
It was pretty cool being the 2nd place woman. People were congratulating me left and right. Also, I guess I stuck out because I was wearing my sunglasses (just out of habit by this point).

1:42:20, 7:49 min/mile, 21st OA, 3rd F, 2nd F30-34.

Turns out.. they did places according to net time, not gun time, so #3 actually beat me. It's frustrating because I spent the whole race in 2nd, and the whole time before awards thinking I got 2nd, and then when they gave out awards, I got 2nd in my AG, not 1st (they only did overall awards for first place). Kind of a disappointment, especially grouped together with another failed PR attempt. To be fair, the course was wicked; I am not surprised that I did not PR, but I am seriously going to freak out if I can't get a sub-1:40 half-marathon before 2014 ends. I diligently took mile splits and I wore my HR monitor but I feel that the data is essentially useless without the elevation profile.

1st, 2nd, 3rd F 30-34

After the race, I stuck around for my award and a post-race massage, and then I walked (gingerly) down the hill to where the shuttles were picking people up. This is where the race experience started to go south for me. I stood in a line for over an hour to get back on a bus to take me back to my car. I tend to be pretty laid back after races, and I was in no hurry, but an HOUR?! I was sweaty, cold, hungry, alone, and my quads were completely wrecked. I just wanted to sit down (not on the ground) so the hour wait was ridiculous. I have never been so happy to get into a hot car when I finally got back to mine. Made the 90 minute drive home, barely able to keep my eyes open by the end! Took a glorious post-race nap in my disgusting running clothes because I was too tired/lazy to change or shower. Then I went out for pizza with my dad for dinner and did some homework before going to bed at 9 pm, again. Oh, the eventful life of a runner. :)

I can tell how bad the hill were for that race because it's been 2 days and my quads are still toasted. It's good, but ouch!

After that race, I am debating a bit of a schedule change for the rest of my season, but I need to really think about it and try to make smart decisions based on my goals for this year.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I love creepy blog stalker friends! Don't be afraid to leave me a comment!