Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Summit2Summit Half Marathon Race Report

Way back in early April I signed us up for a swing of three races over our anniversary. The southeast was pretty empty, and this set of races would allow me to pick up Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama over a long week. It would have been challenging enough without my knee playing a factor. 

I've told the story before: I managed to do something to my knee at the very beginning of April, but thought it would "heal itself" if I just rested it. It didn't. I hobbled through all the hoops -- getting the initial doctor's appointment (6 weeks) to get the physical therapy referral (4 weeks) to complete physical therapy (6 weeks) to get an MRI appointment approved by my insurance company. I had the surgery at the end of July, by which point I needed crutches to get around. Not a great summer for my running fitness!

Post surgery it took a long time to get cleared to run again -- 12 weeks. A few very tentative, very short runs later, and it was nearly time to go on this trip. I decided that my 50 states project was about completing races, not necessarily having great performances. I mean, six states in six days wasn't exactly the correct scenario for PRs, right? So I set out on this trip with the goal to at least get myself to the starting line in each state, and ideally to all three finish lines. That was all I needed to do. 

First up was the very well organized Summit2Summit Half Marathon, in Hot Springs, Arkansas. We decided to fly in the night before race, then spend a total of three nights in a very cute AirBNB. Even though they allowed packet pickup on race morning, we arrived into town just early enough to hustle over to the very cute race expo in the convention center and picked up our handsome swag. 

Race morning, cold but bright, we walked the short distance to the start line. As we got ready to go, I put on a running vest. Wil said, "Aren't you going to wear your special jacket?" and I got all embarrassed. See, I had purchased a track jacket from the 50 States Marathon club and, because my painting skills are less precise than my stitching skills, I had embroidered in the states where I had run a race. I am both wildly proud and slightly embarrassed by this. But I still feel like it's one of the best things I have ever made:

Wil's instincts were perfect -- wearing the jacket made for some good icebreaking conversation in the starting area, as well as during the race, with people asking which race I ran in a particular state, or recommending ones in "blank" states. 

The race wasn't a big one -- capped at 500 for the half -- but it was a chatty, lively group in the starting chute. An announcer was calling out various runners, music was playing, and all was right with the world. There was a slightly rambling prayer (I think the leader got a bit lost, mid blessing), a singing of the national anthem, and then we were underway, right on time. 

We ran past the convention center then looped around to get on Central Ave for a quick run down Bathhouse Row. A quick turn onto Fountain Street, then another turn onto the old carriage road up to the Hot Springs Mountain Tower. 

Now, I half joked at the idea of a "Summit2Summit" race -- imagining Arkansas as flat. I was wrong. The road was steeply panked hairpin turns, a long slow switchback up the hill. 

We just kept going up and up. I had this idea that the Hot Springs Pagoda was the summit of the first mountain. Nope. 

It did, however, offer a lovely view of the valley below. 

Nearly a mile later, we crossed the timing mats just shy of mile 4 and started heading down. One summit down, one more to go. 

The way down was pretty speedy, even if my knee wasn't particularly happy about it. We popped back out on Fountain Street and then made a right past the Arlington Hotel to run up the other stretch of downtown Hot Springs. During this stretch we joined up with a large group of people at the back of the 5K pack. We followed them around a left turn onto Whittington and noticed that we weren't seeing any half marathon bibs in the people headed back after some turnaround. This made us worry a little, but we kept on. 

Eventually we reached a sign that said, thankfully, "5K Turnaround, Half Marathon Straight On". So on we went, making a loop on Whittington around a little park, and then turning up on West Mountain Drive to head up to our second summit. 

If anything, this was worse -- though it might just have been my tired legs. By this time I was just walking and had long since decided that that was fine with me. Still, the day was gorgeous. 

And the higher we climbed, the more frequently we saw signs like this: 

I liked almost everything about this race -- even the hills. The two tiny criticisms are the lack of confirmatory "you're still on the right track" signage (though I might have missed them), and the fact that we saw a sign saying "It's all downhill from here" when we were still a good half mile from the second summit. Cruel, that. 

But the elevation meant that we had great views of the valley -- what our friend Jenny Hadfield calls "earned views":

At one point we had a fine view over to North Mountain and the Hot Springs Tower at the top: 

But, again, we were still headed up up up. 

Finally, however, we hit the second summit just after mile 10, and then had three fast miles to the finish. Well, "fast"...

The finish area was well organized, with lots of pizza, hot soup, and both meaty and veggie burgers, plus a crazy array of snacks. Oh, and chocolate milk, which is the best post-race treat in the world. 

We stood around, eating pizza and a burger, and admiring the day and the other finishers. Eventually -- so that we didn't get caught up in the "Squirt Dash" for kids -- we headed home to our AirBNB for hot showers and a nap. 

The race was well organized, the director sent plenty of clear informational emails leading up to the event, the course was interesting and highlighted the town, and there were plenty of well stocked and staffed water stations, plus abundant food at the finish. The shirt was nice, the medal unique and interesting and HUGE. And of course... state 39!

Summit2Summit Half Marathon
15:04 pace

No comments:

Post a Comment