Monday, May 16, 2016

Chester County Half Marathon Race Report

I had lofty goals but low expectations for this race. I wanted to run a 1:37:52 (7:27/mile), because that time projects out to a 3:25:00 marathon. I wanted to run a very fast race so that I got in a long run at better than goal marathon pace. I wanted to destroy the hills that this race is known for.

This was going to be difficult because I am in the middle of the four toughest/peak weeks of marathon training. I ran 20 last Saturday, and a total of 23 Sunday-Wednesday. I took Thursday, Friday, and Saturday off from running, but that was it in terms of rest or taper.

Then, I got a nasty head cold on Monday. I didn't want to sacrifice my rest later in the week, so I ran through it. I felt alive by Sunday morning, but far from 100%. Also, I participated in a full-day furniture-moving endeavor on Saturday.

So I went into the race with lofty goals but low expectations. I promised myself I wouldn't let the outcome hurt my confidence for the marathon. I warmed up for one mile before the race and I felt okay, but not particularly energetic. Mile 1 of the race felt fine, but my legs still had a tired and loose feeling to them. I hit the mile a little ahead of pace. By Mile 2 I knew I was in trouble. I was still hitting my goal pace, and my breath was fine, but my legs felt as rubbery and worn out as they normally do after a 17 mile long run. In fact, my entire body just felt tired.

I started bargaining. Get to Mile 4 (where the monster hill began) and then you can slow down. Okay, just get to Mile 5. It did not happen. With each small and large uphill my legs became more and more sapped of energy. I tried to will them faster, but it wasn't a matter of pushing through pain or powering up the hill. In fact, as the race went on, I became less and less consciously involved with moving forward. My eyes closed and I simply stumbled forward as fast as my legs would carry me.

Apparently also stuck out my tongue.
Thanks for the free picture of my pain, ChescoHalf.

By Mile 5.5 I was having another problem. There was snot EVERYWHERE. My cold from earlier in the week resurfaced in a brilliant display of human messiness. My nose became red and raw from wiping at it, allowing me to add another point to my list of whiny complaints.

Shortly after Mile 8, I crested the monster hill and began my stumble downhill to the finish. I made up time here simply because I was too tired to check my descent. Small uphills stopped me from accelerating into a free-limb tumble.

Around mile 10 or 11 I found myself running alone. The woods opened up to farmland on either side of the road. To my right, there was a field of sheep. This is what happened:

*sheep go 'm-a-a-a-a-a'*

"Maa sheep."

*sheep go 'M-A-A-A-A'*

"MAAA sheep."

*sheep go 'MA-A-A-A-A'*



"Stupid sheep. Humph. Probably not great that I am shouting at the sheep by myself."

I finally hit Mile 12 and checked the time on my watch. It appeared that I was going to set a PR, and I just could not bring myself to care. I sprinted across the finish in 1:40:50.

I set a PR (from 1:42:22), ran the race in better than marathon goal pace (7:41 miles versus 7:49 MGP) so I got in a great, hilly, workout, and I finished. Also, it turns out I got 5th woman, and 1st in my age group. But I didn't find that out until I looked at the results later. After the race I ran 2 slow miles to get to 16 for the day and then left in a bratty, sad huff that I did not set a super-fast PR on a day that I felt sick and tired and a little over-stretched from marathon training. I have a much better attitude now.

I got in a great workout. I did really well for the conditions and my condition. Also, I never felt out of breath the entire race. The hills did not challenge me aerobically. The only problem I had was temporary leg and body weakness and exhaustion, not lack of fitness or strength. Last fall, I had a really great half marathon, and then really struggled in the marathon (my goal event). Hopefully, this time it's flipped.

There were good and bad things about the event itself:

1. It was very well-run (ahaha puns). It started on time, packet pickup was organized and convenient, parking was clear and there were frequent shuttles from parking to the start/finish, and the whole thing went without a hitch that I could see.

2. Mile markers were almost non-existent (or maybe my eyes were just closed?)

3. The course was beautiful (I think? again, mostly closed eyes), running on country through woods and fields. Lot's of birdsong/mockery.

4. The other competitors were weirdly unfriendly. I asked one girl lined up in front at the start what she was looking to run, and she crossed her arms, snapped "we'll see," and then walked off. Do I really LOOK like I'm about to steal the win from you? I mean, I WAS going to try for 7:30 miles, but now that I know you're running 6's, I guess I better step it up. Also, I was chatting with the leader of the 1:40 pace group and another guy told me there was "no way" I would hit my goal time. Turned out to be true, but shut the fuck up guy, you don't know my life. Everyone seemed very grumpy? Not the usual experience I have with fellow runners.

5. The spectators were absolutely fantastic. I love all of them. There were sooooo many for such a small race and they made so much noise! My favorite were the firemen with the fire trucks sitting and spectating. They had their sirens on the entire time and every time a runner would pass they would blow the horns. Thanks guys!


  1. omg a fire truck??? best race ever!!!

    who the f says youll never hit your goal at the start of a race, what is he hitlers cousin? jerk.

  2. Hahaha, yeah I was so surprised! I was so unprepared I had nothing to say to him. The fire trucks were the best. I can't remember where they were precisely...Mile 9? 11?