Sunday, April 28, 2013

University of Charleston Half Marathon Race Report

I would like to apologize in advance for the negative thoughts I had going in to this race. See, yesterday I ran the Park to Park Half in Waynesboro, Virginia, and it was AWESOME. But when I got to Charleston last night and went to check the information for today's race, I was dismayed to see that only 144 people were running the half. Oh.

Now, our first ever half marathon had fewer than 75 people in it, so I'm not sure why the low number spooked me. But I was worried that this race would be poorly organized so I was dreading it a little. I mentioned it to Rebecca over IM, who reminded me that I had never come in last, and wouldn't this time. But to be honest, that's not what was bothering me. (Heck, we've come in close to last a couple of times, and it's okay. Really!) I think I just worried that it was indicative of the quality of the race. Here's what's even weirder -- the 5K race only at 53 people registered.

Anyway, woke up to rain, rain, rain, which caused me to make a last-minute adjustment in my outfit... I swapped my shorts for a pair of capris and very happily unearthed my LSD Lite Jacket (which is so great!) But I ate my bagel, drank some water, and was on my way to the race by 6:15. One very nice thing: when a race starts on a university campus, there's pretty good signage directing you to the place!

Got to the University of Charleston a little before 6:30 as the rain fell harder and harder. Packet pickup was easy, though I almost forgot to pick up a shirt because the shirts were at a different table. Oh, and the shirts were nice and simple: black shirts, with the race name in yellow on the front, and a large and quite handsome race logo on the back. No sponsors or other stuff. Simple.

I took my stuff to the car and decided to just sit in the car for a few minutes. The rain made me feel a bit sad and even less motivated to run. The course would be open for three hours... and I figured I would probably need close to 2:45 of it, given that I had run yesterday. I waited till the last possible moment to leave the car and walk the 25 yards to the start. Did I mention it was raining?

I think the race director was speaking, but no one could hear him... There was certainly no national anthem or fuss, just a blast of an airhorn before the small crowd took off. A "golden eagle" mascot was caught off guard, and had a bit of a time avoiding collisions. Nice.

Golden Eagles!
before the near-collisions

The course was a little strange -- two modified loops, each of which had a "lollipop" at both ends. Okay, maybe a baby rattle? Anyway, we ran out of campus, turned left to run along the river, then turned back in and ran along a straight for a bit. We would run this straightaway four times, which meant I felt like I got to know the kids at the water stop.

The course was actually quite pretty, as we spent most of it along the river or on small streets lined with pretty houses. And at every mile, we passed a water stop with efficient and friendly student volunteers. And speaking of volunteers, every one of the many turns along this course was manned by a volunteer holding a sign. I actually felt bad for them -- it was a miserable morning. I mean, it's one thing to run in the rain, it's quite another to stand in one spot for three hours.

I noticed that I was runnning too quickly again. I didn't feel particularly bad or particularly good... and I even considered just walking today, but the three-hour cut-off spooked me a bit. So I decided to run to mile 5 and assess the situation. Miles 1-5 all went by in about 10-minute miles. Man.

I plodded on, mainly alone, though I was following folks just to keep an eye on 'em. I hit the second loop and decided I should take a couple of pictures...

The state capitol:

West Virginia State Capitol
oooh, shiny

These weird giant flowers popped up in two places along the river... and later I noticed ones and twos of them in front of various houses:

giant fake flowers along the river

I didn't get a picture, but the only wildlife I saw on this run was a squirrel and a bunny. I guess that's what happens when you run in a town rather than in the countryside! BTW, I realize now that the "squirrel colored" corpse from yesterday must have been a large-ish bunny.

Oh, and this is what it looked like on the road by the river. Not a lot going on there. If you look waaaaaaay ahead in the distance, you can probably glimpse the nearest person to me. I spent a lot of time on my own today.

UC Half Marathon 2013
pretty lonely out there

By about mile 10, I just wanted to be done. I had slowed down a little, but was weighing the difference between keeping running (finish sooner) and just walking it in (relax and rest a bit). Then something weird happened.

When I was on the back half of the second loop (that is, was heading back to the finish), two women came running from a road to the right.... cutting the course. By a mile or so. I watched both of them, a little fascinated, wondering what was going on. One woman -- turquoise jacket -- turned off to the left after a block, and I realized that she was just out for a run. Either that, or she had another shortcut planned. (I hadn't seen her before.)

But purple jacket kept going. Now, in her defense, she probably just followed the other runner rather than, oh, the course markings. (There were LOTS of course markings.) So I'm sure it was a mistake. But still.

I tried not to let it bother me -- you know, tried to run my own race. But it bugged me. I kept imagining conversations I would have with her... or whether I should tell the course marshals. (Not sure there were course marshals, but still.) I kept wondering what age group she was in. Of course, running a hundred yards or so behind her, I couldn't tell. But I was not about to let someone finish in front of me -- potentially in my age group! -- without putting up a fight.

So I sped up to close the gap. I felt a little dumb doing this, because I was tired and was on decidedly dead legs. But who cares. I caught up with her gradually over the next few hundred yards, and was a little surprised when it was a woman I had passed around mile 2. Sheesh! But I still wasn't sure how old she was. Still, I was clearly able to run faster, even with tired legs, so now I just had to hold on.

I got ahead of her a bit, then slowed to a walk at the water stop at mile 12. I decided that I would rather have her in front of me than behind me for a little while. When she passed me again, I let her go... but then caught up when she slowed to a walk. I decided that it was time to pass her for good... so sped up and left her behind.

I kept running for the final mile, passing another woman, following a man who went slightly the wrong way (and then leading that woman the wrong way after me...), but I could recognize the campus and knew I was close. I wasn't sure if the other women were close, but I decided to pick it up as quickly as I could, so I sprinted across the line -- thinking, for some reason, of Hiromi, the tough little Japanese lady at my boot camp who said she loves to watch me run.

I had my jacket zipped, so my bib wasn't visible -- but I hope they still managed to spot me. I mean, they were using bib tags, so that should have all worked okay.

After the finish I collected a handsome pin. Now, I thought we were going to be given medals, but with a race this small it may have been cost-prohibitive to get nice medals made. Still it's a good looking pin!

I went over to get some water and was handed a brown bag with pretzels, a banana, and a granola bar in it. Nice. I thought about standing and cheering, but then I remembered that the breakfast at my hotel was open till 10, and hot biscuits and eggs won out over supporting my fellow runners. Selfish, selfish me.

I still feel a little funny about the woman who cut the course. In talking to Wil later I told him that I felt dumb for being so petty and chasing her down, but it also just seemed a little odd. It's one thing to cut the course when something has gone wrong, like at our first Birch Bay Road Race -- when we had long since run the 15K advertised and people just wanted to stop... lots of folks just skipped the last few official kilometers. Of course we didn't! But to cut the course when there wasn't any reason to? Odd.

That said, purple jacket served a purpose today -- she made me keep running at the end of the race. I'm not sure what my official time was, but I think I finished right around 2:15. Yep, faster than yesterday, though admittedly today's race was much flatter.

Now I'm sitting at O'Hare Airport, feeling like the race was days ago (and killing a lot of time before my flight to Seattle). I was thinking about the last time I came to the Bronto Summit, and the races I ran the following weekend in North and South Carolina... and how I was a little embarrassed, but I couldn't really remember either of them very well. But I spent some time during the run today thinking about them -- Palmetto in SC on the Saturday -- starting and finishing at the shopping mall, running out to a pretty little lake, "sparklebutt" and "hippy dippy", and the nice medal..... then Run Raleigh on the Sunday -- starting and finishing at a running store in a strip mall, running around a pretty old church before doing a long loop that included a paved trail through the woods. And the acorns... all of the acorns.

Hopefully I'll be better at remembering these two distinctly different races a year from now!

 

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