City: Raleigh, NC Date: 11/28/2013
Distance: Half Marathon (13.1 miles)
Weather: The coldest race I have run so far: starting temperature was 23 degrees!
Course: Hilly, through a neighborhood and some rural roads
Summary: A great way to start the Thanksgiving holiday… and hopefully, a new tradition!
Did you know that more people finish races on Thanksgiving Day now than on July 4th? I never really thought about that in all the Turkey Trots I’ve done, but I thought about that this year because I saw this article just before I embarked on my longest Turkey Trot so far: a half marathon. Now, I’m one of the masses. yeeeee haaaa.
This was only the third year of the race, though, the first couple of years, I couldn’t do it. Last year, I couldn’t go because my kids were with me and we had an early dinner, and the year before, I had the 2011 Rock and Roll Las Vegas a little over a week later and I thought it would be a bad idea (especially given my level of training at the time) to do 2 half marathons in just over a week. This year, however, I had no reason *not* to do it: the boys were with their dad and I was going to my sister’s around 1, so I had plenty of time to run a half marathon.
I decided to register for this race before I did Savannah. I figured this would be my last chance in the year to earn a PR, juuuuusssssst in case Savannah didn’t pan out (because I did have a smidge of doubt hanging out in there…). If I did earn a PR in Savannah, however, this would just be an easy race… nothing to brag about – just a great way to start the day. I would be, at minimum, motivated to get out there. Plus, I knew I’d be running with people, so I figured that would be better than running alone, and was worth the entry fee. Another bonus: I could finally repeat my own state.
I blabbed about it at work enough to the point that one of my coworker running buddies decided he’d run it too, and I changed my mind: regardless of what happens in Savannah, I am going to run with my friend. I can always PR next year if I don’t in Savannah. I did PR in Savannah, so I ended up with exactly what I wanted: a PR and a relaxing Half Marathon… if you can ever call running 13.1 miles “relaxing”.
Having a race on a Thursday was disorienting for my friend and me, especially when it came to packet pick up. It is just odd to have to think about packet pick up on a Wednesday. We were both staying in town, so we were both working through Wednesday evening. I mentioned something about the packets on Tuesday, and we agreed that we’d pick them up on Wednesday around lunch. We got to the running store hosting the packet pick up and made it through the stations to get the goodies: there was the bib, a long sleeve tech shirt, socks, arm warmers and a “special gift” we got at the end of the race (in addition to the medal). We got to the shirt station and discovered that the men’s shirts were bright yellow (my friend’s favorite race shirt color!) and the women’s were gray… huh? I was a little disappointed they weren’t a brighter color, but they are nice shirts. The socks were not running socks, but had the Skinny Turkey logo on them, so I thought they were still pretty cool. The main thing I was really happy about getting, however, were the arm warmers. I have a pair of Asics cotton arm warmers that I wear all the time and have been meaning to get more, so I was really, really excited to have these. We showed off the goodies to another running friend at work who would appreciate them and then we went back to work.
As I usually do the days leading up to a race, I checked the forecast constantly. The couple of days before the race, it had poured in Raleighwood and, though I love the rain runs, I don’t know if I am OK with doing a half marathon in it, especially this time of year; the rain was likely to be chilly, at best, so I wasn’t really interested in finding out what 13.1 in the rain was going to be like in all that. After all, I do have a treadmill in my house and I’m OK with a DNS in that situation. However, the weather reports all pointed to a clear, but very, very cold morning (around 23 degrees for the low). ugh. When I got home, I laid out all my winter gear, packed a change bag and did my usual stretches. I was ready for bed early, so I curled up to watch some TV and called it a night around 9.
I love running, I really do, but had I not paid for this race and promised someone I would be there, I’m doubtful I would have run 13 miles this day, much less done it outside. It was freakin’ cold. But… I paid for it, and I was meeting a friend there, and I told everyone I was going to do it, so I sucked it up, stretched and did my usual morning pre-race routine, put on my winter gear, grabbed my change bag and headed out the door.
This race is in a planned community called Wakefield, which is about a 45-minute drive for me, most of it highway, but after a point, a lot of back roads to get to there with a lot of icy patches, which concerned me. Luckily, this is a pretty small race, and it started and finished in front of the high school, so, other than a few ice spots from the previous day’s rains, it was pretty easy to get to and parking was a-plenty. I pulled up, parked my car and sent my co-worker a text to let him know I was there and where I was. I then piled on the clothes: do I need a fleece? Yes? No? Gloves: hell yes. Hat? Lordy, yes. I decided against the fleece: I had a compression shirt and a half zip and once I got started, I should be OK.
However… getting to the school to use the restroom (and, YAY for not having to use a port-a-john in 23 degrees…) and standing outside waiting for the start were another story. You could literally only be out in it for a few minutes before it became just painful. I headed into the school to meet my friend, and like a lot of other folks, we just decided to stay in there after we were finished with the restrooms.
About 3 minutes before start, we headed out to the start line. I’ve mentioned a couple of times this year that I really like the smaller races – this one was probably the smallest I did and I loved it. The start line was long, but thin, and we all bunched up together to keep warm. There were no corrals or pacers with signs… we just all sort of fell in and decided that if we wanted to run faster, we could pass. I liked that. My friend and I complained about the cold and made snarky comments and jokes (as we tend to do) until the race started.
Once it started, the run felt like any other he and I had done together: it was informal and it was just us talking about stuff we normally talk about at work and on other runs. At the beginning of the race, I had a little bit of a problem with my compression shirt riding up, but eventually, I let it go and it stopped bothering me (incidentally, I wore that shirt a few weeks before and again today without it riding up, so I think it was the pants I wore that day that may have been too loose). The neighborhood roads were pretty wide, and there were a few neighbors that came out to cheer for us, which I thought was really, really nice considering how cold it was! One even in his robe – haha. There were a few icy patches, but once we got through the initial 5k of the run, the crowd thinned out, so the icy patches weren’t as much of an issue.
However…. this also meant that the hills were starting… I know I talk about hills a lot. Lord knows, downtown Raleigh is full of ’em, but this route was pretty hilly. I’m not saying that it was “San Fran” hilly, but the type of hills reminded me a lot of those: constant and rolling and at the crest of one, you could easily see a few more. These were longer and a bit steeper, though, so it messed with your mind a little, so I tried to keep chatting about inane things so my friend and I didn’t have to actually *think* about the hills. I promise you, had I been alone, I believe this section probably would have a much different tone to it because that’s all I would have thought about.
And then… I came to the water stop with the chickens…
Yes. Chickens. I don’t know why they were there, either. And, yes, I had to do a double take – both times I went through this stop. On one side – let’s call it the ‘way out’ side, there were a few of them in a cage. A smattering of high-school aged kids were running the stop (and doing a fabulous job with it, I might add), and they paid no attention to the chicken cage… kind of acted like it should have been there and was no big deal. I didn’t really comment about it on the way out – I thought it was weird, but, whatever, this is NC so seeing chickens around happens… just never saw them on the side of the road at a race before and it surprised me.
We went on, hilly mile after hilly mile, until we got to the last turnaround. I think my friend and I were pretty grateful for that turn around. I could tell he was starting to loose steam: I was doing all the talking. I tried to entertain him with funny stories and ramblings about what I’d do if I won the lottery (that I never play), but he didn’t seem all that amused, though, I give him a lot of credit for trying to appear amused. He caught his second wind and mentioned that, as we got to a certain point in the race, he will have hit a mileage goal he had set for the year – a little earlier than expected. I kept up the chatting until we got to that mileage goal and then I congratulated him for making the goal (he had forgotten by that point).
And then… we came back to the water stop with the chickens…
Yes. Chickens. On this side, the ‘way back’ side, incidentally, there was only one chicken (by the way – the other caged ones were still on the other side of the route) and it had – not joking – a leash on it. what? First of all – why? Secondly… what? I didn’t even know they made leashes (or collars for that matter) for chickens. But… why bring them to a race? it was just weird. I was handed a water by the kid holding the other end of the leash – he was very pleasant, smiled at me gave me a cup of water and several words of encouragement… but the only thing I could think of was: “why is he holding a chicken on a leash?” and I used everything in my power not to blurt that out.
The last two miles, I worked on cheering on my friend and getting us to the finish line. We crossed it at the same time and congratulated each other on the finish and gathered our medal (which, I must say, I loved) and the special gift (a wine tool with the race name on it – nice, but nothing I’d use). We chatted for a minute, but I noticed frost on his cap and I wanted to get us out of the cold. We stopped by the water/food table briefly, and then went inside where the temperature was much warmer so we could stretch and cool down. We took a photo and let friends and family know we were done, chatted a little bit about the race, and then braved the cold to head out to our respective family dinners.
I loved this race for many reasons and I plan to do it again next year, even if I’m late to dinner. One of the things I loved the most, though, was running a race *with* someone. I’ve only done that one other time and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I hope I get to run more races *with* friends going forward.
…and now I also have an odd story about chickens at a race…