City: Raleigh, NC Date: 11/27/2014
Distance: Half Marathon (13.1 miles)
Weather: upper-30s at start; low 40s at finish, cloudy and drizzly throughout the race.
Course: Also known in the area as an intentionally hilly race… and… it isn’t my imagination this is, according to my tracker, hillier than City of Oaks…
Summary: Another awesome, well organized and well done race!! But… no chickens this year
I recently learned that the single day with the most road races scheduled is Thanksgiving Day. In a lot of ways, this kind of makes sense – there is a fair amount of guilt associated with eating big dinners and that’s kind of a big part of the feast. The idea is you gather over dinner with food brought by all to give thanks for the bounty an all you have. Running road races seems to fit in well with that theme – this way, you can go into the dinner with a caloric deficit and feel a little less guilt about indulging.
I know I did.
I ran this race last year and I loved it, so for me, it was a no-brainer to do it again. I had my kids this year, but thankfully, I have a dad who can watch them for a couple of hours while I run 13 hilly miles in the rain and cold for fun. haha.
I only had a little over two weeks between this half and the City of Oaks, so I didn’t do a whole lot of specific training, but I did get a few targeted workouts in, specifically a couple of speed intervals and couple of hill workouts. I also managed a longer tempo run that is, to date, my fastest average pace for any distance over a mile (especially for one that is not running down Lassiter Mill Road or the side of a mountain). I followed that run by an overly aggressive hill workout and, I must say, the runs leading up to this half marathon were all very tough. I finally had a good run the Tuesday before the half, but even that run was a bit tough at the start of it. I didn’t hold out a lot of hope for having a good race. For that reason, I set my mind to “just beat last year’s time”. I didn’t think that would be difficult to do since last year’s time was my slowest half marathon time ever.
The night before the race, I got my packet from one of my friends also running the race, and then I packed up the kids and went to my dad’s house. We feasted on pizza and gluten free cookies and enjoyed the evening playing games. I was horrible about drinking enough water that day – just forgot and got busy at work and with the kids so I wasn’t on target. I remembered as the evening got late, but by then it might have been too late. One of my uncles – driving in from IN – decided to drive all the way in and arrived around 10. I stayed up to visit with him and my cousins that rarely see, and finally headed off to bed, carrying a sleeping 9 year old. I think that should count for something… haha.
I slept great through the short night I had – my alarm went off at shortly before 5, so I got up, had some coffee, ate some cereal and otherwise continued with my normal routine for preparing for races. I left my Dad’s house around 5:20 and planned to arrive to the school a little after 6 to give myself enough time to use the bathroom once I got there. I got there in good time and ended up having enough time to use the restroom three times. I was grateful to have indoor restrooms, though some ladies complained about their condition. I wanted to say “hey – better than a port-a-john…
I heard the announcements – that they are going to get everything started – so I went outside to line up. It was cold, for sure, but even though it was only a few degrees warmer than City of Oaks, it felt warmer. I filed into line and set up my phone with music and to record the right shoes and when I looked up, I saw my friend that got my packet for me. We chatted for a bit and he introduced me to a couple of women at the start, one he was going to pace. I wished them luck, put my ear buds in and started on my way by myself.
The route is tucked between Old Falls of Neuse, Highway 98, and Capital Blvd and the majority of it is in a planned community called Wakefield Plantation. It starts and finishes at the Wakefield High School and it appears that most of the volunteers for the race are the students and their families. With the exception of the portion along Highway 98 – about 2 miles – the route is contained solely in the neighborhood served by the school. The first six miles are an out and back through the, what I’ll call, the middle income section of the neighborhood. The houses are nice – they all look like mine – just not fancy and big, but nice. Inside the first half mile, we pass the guy in the Leopard robe drinking coffee and cheering – only this year, he has some people with him… and a tent! They made a bit of a party out of it! I was hoping I’d see him again this year! The rest of that six miles was rolling – just up and down and up and down and up and down. A lot of lead changes with folks – as I pass them going up, they’d pass me going down… and then we’d get a flat and I’d catch up or open the lead a little until they were just gone.
Around mile 3.5, we make the turn to come back and you start to remember all those hills… and how much harder they are going up than the others seemed to be on the way out. I managed to just tune out for a while until I saw some of the kids manning the water stations and cheering for us – they were all so enthusiastic and seemed to be having a really fun time, which made me happy to see! I was able to get some energy from them and it helped push me up the hills… until we passed by the road leading back to the school.
Did I mention it was raining? Oh. Yeah. It rained. It was on and off drizzle mostly, but there were a few periods of rain that were consistent. This gave me even more hope about the next generation that some of them were not only out there supporting a bunch of us looneys running on a holiday, but doing so in the rain.
At this point, I knew what was ahead: Highway 98. And… getting to Highway 98. I distinctly remember the year before being surprised at how long of a hill that was, and how tough it seemed to climb it. I also remembered having to get there. This was the part of the neighborhood on the golf course with the large houses. It was very pretty back there – I almost think prettier this year because there was more color still on the trees at this point. It is a sucky, sucky hill on the way in, but it is worse coming back. This was the area where I saw the chickens last year – I was disappointed there were no chickens this year, but the kids at the water stop did a wonderful job about cheering us on and directing us.
Once I turned on to Highway 98, I was grateful because I knew I was almost done. I powered up that hill and tried to pass as many people I could. I thought back to last year’s race and how I was talking to my friend running the race with me trying to distract him from the hill the best I could. I remembered how there were beer cans littering the side of the road, and as soon as I thought that, I saw another one – haha. I got to the top of the hill and I thought we turned around at the store, but I noticed the turn around was a bit after the store. Dang. I got to the turn around and headed back down and as I did, I saw someone pointing at the horse in the yard next to us – he was running with us! Back and forth and back and forth – it was adorable! He just wanted to run with us 🙂 As I was spacing out thinking about the horse, my friend that I saw at the start line shouted my name and I waved to him – ironically, almost exactly the same spot I first saw him the year before. About half a mile later, he had caught up to me and we ran together until we got to just short of mile 12. He was excited and trying to help pace me for another PR, but I just didn’t have that much more in me and I couldn’t keep the pace. I thanked him and told him he’s welcome to run with me, but if he wanted to go ahead, he should go.
He thanked me waved goodbye and I told him I’d see him at finish and he took off. I actually had a visual on him the remainder of the race – at least when I was at the top of the hills! haha.
I was really happy to be at the end of the race, though. I was singularly focused on getting that coffee. I knew they were selling some for a dollar at the school, so I was really looking forward to getting it. I crossed over Old Falls of Neuse and then made the turn for the last mile back to the school. I was getting giddy with excitement now – not because I was finishing faster than I thought I would. Not because it had stopped raining. Not because I saw my friend. Because I was 1 mile away from coffee.
I climbed the last hill along side a man who I had traded leads with several times toward the end of the race and he snuffled and snorted and griped about the hills – I chuckled and said “oh yeah… this is worse than City of Oaks!” not even thinking he *might* be an out-of-towner who doesn’t know what I’m talking about. As I crested the hill, I could see the finish banner and I picked up the pace just as much as my legs would allow and I crossed the finish at a very respectable 1:48:44 and 2nd in age group again.
I’m impressed that I got that close to my PR. For me, a minute away from my PR is pretty close, especially when I had over 300 more feet of climbing. I was happy to see my friend in the race. I was pretty sore, though, the remainder of the day, so I think I was definitely dehydrated. As I work up to marathon training again, I need to keep a closer eye on that. I could have probably pushed it a little more if I had been better hydrated.