Today's Mighty Oak

VeteRun Half Marathon



Race information

  • What? VeteRun Half Marathon

  • When? March 3, 2018

  • How far? 13.1 miles

  • Where? Summit Point, W. Va.

  • Website: [http://www.veterun.org/)

Goals

Goal Description Completed?
A Mandatory: Thank volunteers Possibly too much, see below
B Mandatory: High five some people Yes
C Mandatory: Have a happy run Yes
D Don’t get lost Yes
E Stretch goal: New PR Yes

Training

This was the tune-up/mid-way point race for my training cycle for the Pittsburgh Marathon. I’ve been doing Hal Higdon’s Intermediate 1 marathon plan which has been going pretty well. It doesn’t include speedwork, but it’s really increased my mileage in a smart way, and for the first time ever, I’ve run over 100 miles a month (actually, for two months in a row!).

Generally I’ve felt pretty good, my legs have been sore, but in a good way, and I’ve been diligent with stretching and rolling (as well as adding some sort of core work each day), which has really helped, as I feel like I’m prone to ITBS.

When looking for race that fit into this schedule, all the local races were off by a few weeks, more geared towards other training plans, but as it turns out, there was this cool little half marathon right next to where my dad’s family is and is run on a motor speedway, promising a really unique experience!

Jefferson County is the last county on the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, and where my dad’s family was from and then eventually settled (once my grandfather was done moving around with the Army). It’s steeped in history, and as an added bonus, my aunt is a runner and agreed to run this with me, even though it was a new race for her as well! You may have heard of the town of Harper’s Ferry, and Summit Point is two towns over. Charles Town (not Charleston), is where my family is, and is home to a racetrack and casino.

Pre-race

Headed to Charles Town and the nearby community of Ranson to do early packet-pick up on Friday evening. The running store was cool, although a bit strange. They are a ‘minimalist’ running store, so only had a few types and styles of shoes (as well as a really nice selection of dressier shoes not for running, actually), but a huge selection of accessories (heated foam rollers, etc.) and clothing. They are also one of the members of Bros and Bras a fitness collective in the area, dedicated to getting people more active, so that’s pretty cool. I did pick up a massage Stick for $10, which was an awesome deal, and packet pick-up was pretty easy. However, they didn’t have the shoe tags, so we would have to go to packet pick-up again the next morning at the racetrack. The volunteers though were awesome (a theme that would continue)!

Charles Town has gone through a transformation. When I was little, it had one streetlight. The racetrack was there, but in the last ten years, the casino, Wal Mart, and pretty much everything else has sprung up, and now there’s like, six stop lights within the town borders! But it was nice to drive past my grandmother’s old house and see some of the sights I hadn’t seen in a few years, as well as what hasn’t changed. I had been back since the casino opened, but even since then, the town has grown a lot. It’s still a really quaint small town with a Southern feel, where at night, you sit on your porch and chit chat with the neighbors who happen to walk past, inviting them up for some sun tea. The sidewalks are brick and wavy due to the tree roots underneath, and no matter which way you turn you can see the roofline of a building that probably has some history going back to the American Revolution.

My friend came down with me to make a little ‘runcation’ out of the day, and my parents took us out to dinner at this amazing restaurant that had cuisine from Lebanon (I’m Lebanese), Morocco, Spain, France and Italy. It all worked together, and the sheer variety was amazing. They had the best pita bread outside of my family I’ve ever had, and really good homemade hummus. I had the couscous with cranberries and walnuts while the live musician entertained the dining room.

The race has* an 11 a.m. start, which is really strange, but since it’s the first weekend of March, the weather really could be anything. Before we headed to the race track, we stopped by my uncle’s bakery and he had made me some sourdough bread to take home with me! We headed to the motor speedway, got through security, got our shoe chips and waited around a bit. Due to the high winds, the park had lost power, so while VeteRun promotes heavily the fact that there are real bathrooms, not port-a-potties, because they had no power, the bathrooms were closed. They restored power at some point during the race and opened them, as well as the showers that were available on site. *Due to the additional security added by the race track, the race was delayed 15 minutes.

This was also the first time my parents came to a race of mine. I gave them cowbells, because why not, and they actually had a really good time; plus me, myself and my aunt could throw them stuff between the first and second lap if we needed to (they both did, I did not).

Race

So, one of my goals was to not get lost. I feel that with the course this half took that fear was justified. I did not get lost, thankfully. Another one of my goals was of course to thank the volunteers. I’m a happy runner, it’s just how I am, and one of the volunteers scolded me for being too happy to be running a half marathon as I ran past her, thanking her for the fourth time for being awesome and helping us not get lost, so I’m counting that as a win!

However, what we need to talk about is the wind. The wind was sustained 25 mph with gusts of 40 mph the entire time we were running. With how twisty the course was, along with the hills and banks, you’d be trucking along, and make a turn or come up over a hill and BAM! You’d suddenly have to hold onto your hat and lean forward to make any progress. The hills were rolling, although one was really steep, and that, combined with the wind, brought a lot of people to a walk.

The field was pretty small (103 for the half, 91 for the 5K, which started 15 minutes after the half), and I think a lot of that was due to the wind and many people not having power at home and having to deal with cleanup. At one point, I couldn’t feel my left hip because the cross wind was hitting it enough for me to lose all feeling.

My aunt is really a badass, and it was really cool to run with her! We stuck together and chit chatted for the first five miles or so, and that actually really helped to reel me in, letting me have the energy for a really good negative split. After she dropped back, I was alone for a long time, and I was honestly a bit worried about getting lost, but there were enough cones and signs that I was good!

As I came through for the end of my first lap, based off of my music, I was in position to grab a PR, so I decided to make that my goal and see if I could make it happen. I hadn’t come into the race with any real time expectation but I thought it was within reach, so I wanted to go for it.

I ran a smart race, slowly increasing my speed, even taking into account the hills I know I’d be encountering on the second lap. The wind was still a huge factor, you’d turn a corner and be smacked in the face, and it was unpredictable, but I just kept reeling in the people in front of me, passing them (usually on the uphills) and then keeping that lead. With less than a mile and a half left, the last huge hill in front of me, I passed someone as we made our way up and passed another across the bridge at the top of the hill. We chatted for a moment: it was his first race since 1987 (and major heart problems), and he was encouraging and inspiring! There was one guy left in front of me, who I really wanted to pass, and with about half a mile to go, I finally overtook him, and held him off on the kick, which was down one of the pit rows to the finish line.

Mental

February was a dumpster fire (work, family and personal issues), so I wasn’t exactly sure how this race would go. I went into it just figuring I’d use it as a chance to hone my race-day routine, but I think I have that down pretty well, although adding in the travel was a challenge for me, and I found myself packing and repacking many, many times, since I’d not be at my house for race day morning.

As we started the race, I enjoyed talking with my Aunt, and while normally my long runs are ‘me time’ where my mind works things out, I knew that any time with her would not be that, and once I framed it that way, I was okay with it. When she fell back and I continued on, my mind went to work like it sometimes does, working through things and fixing problems and digging around inside itself, and that was helpful, and good time for me. I really appreciated having both of those experiences on one run.

Post-race

I crossed the finish line in 2:13:15, more than a six minute PR! I remember as I was approaching the finish line, seeing the clock and saying out loud, “No ******* way!” I guess I still didn’t believe I was going to PR! Grabbed my medal, water (had to pass on the pizza since I’m a lactard) and had my shoe chip cut off before finding my family and then waiting to cheer in my aunt as she crossed the finish line. We grabbed a couple pictures before we headed out.

The power had come back, but we decided to shower at my parent’s hotel (they were staying another night in Charles Town) before we headed home, of course hitting the cosmic center of the universe: Breezewood, Pa. My aunt got first place in her age division! And will now be training for the Freedom Run Half Marathon and the Harper’s Ferry full, which is both historic and crazy in terms of hills!

All three of us left with windburn. My face, as well as my hands are pretty beat up from it, actually, so I’ll be doing what I can to heal, probably lost of chapstick and lotion. Nothing we could really do about it, but I feel pretty badass for getting a PR in those conditions!

What’s next?

I’m halfway through my training for the Pittsburgh Marathon. I’m anxiously awaiting and dreading the return of spring weather (I’m sick of running in the cold, but I appreciate the extra emptiness of the sidewalks). With this PR and my long runs taking me up to 15 miles (I know there’s still a long way to go), I’m feeling much more confident than I was before. I’m a bit nervous about the mileage ramping up once again, but this helped a lot so I know I’ll be able to continue to work through my training plan.

The races in training plans are great for not only the practice of running on race day (and getting your running to fit on a set start time), but also as a way to see where you are in your own journey; and I had forgotten that. I don’t race over the winter, but maybe I need to change that moving forward, to keep me in that mindset and practiced.

My friend and I also had such a good time that we’re looking into what other close (or closeish) races we can do, hopefully making runcations a yearly event for us! She tossed out ideas for Virginia Beach and Cincinnati, and my parents would love for us to run the Outer Banks while they’re there (aka, Pittsburgh South Version 2, Florida is Version 1), so that will be the goal for next year!

I also have to help my mom figure out how to upload all of her pictures to a Facebook album, so I’ll be working on that this week (by working on, I just mean doing). I’ll be adding some more pictures that she and my dad took to the album I put together here.

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