Monday, October 17, 2011

Hershey Half Marathon - Mission Accomplished

Well the title says it all.

I had two goals that I wanted to accomplish with this race.

First I wanted to finish as it was my last race that I was using to qualify for the Half Fanatics.

Two, I wanted to get a new personal record out of it.

Well, not only did I finish and get a new PR, I crushed my old PR. I will get to that in a minute. Let me break it down for you as to how things went.

So we leave Friday late afternoon on our way up to Hershey. Instead of staying at a hotel we stayed at the Hershey Campground. We love to camp, so tying in a camping weekend around a race was just too good not to pass up.

We check in at the campground and found out that they were still rebuilding after the storm that came through in September. They were really flooded out. The bathrooms were still not operational. They had to bring in bathrooms on trailers. These were not portapotties but very clean executive type bathrooms. They also had another trailer that had showers. They were very nice.

Anyway, we get our trailer all set up and call it a night. We get up Saturday morning and take our time getting breakfast as packet pickup is not until 10 am.

We finally start to head over to Hershey stadium on a clear, cool and windy morning. This was the second year for Hershey to be doing this event and the first year they had an expo with vender's. With that in mind I did not think that it was going to be anything to write home about, and it wasn't but it was good to see some vender's out there.

So we go to the main tent and pickup my packet. Part of the package was that we were given two tickets to Hershey after dark plus we were able to get up to 4 more at a reduced rate. This was a good deal as we had our kids with us as well. As it turned out the person that was suppose to be selling the extra tickets weren't there yet. Being that the park did not open until 2 this was not that big of an issue. So I looked into my packet, so that my bib was in there, verified that I had 2 tickets to Hershey after dark and I saw a safety pin so I thought all was good. More on that later.

So we had some time to kill. What better way to spend it that take a stroll down memory lane and visit the place were my wife and I met. So we did. We drove down the road a piece to visit Lebanon Valley College. We went to the College center and to the bookstore. A lot has changed but a lot also stayed the same. We talked to our kids about the kinds of things that we did, where we hung out and just how things were. The campus was a buzz as it was homecoming. The Marching band was warming up in different areas of the campus and then they came together and marched around before going over to the football stadium. It was a good time. We think the kids got a kick out of it as well. Anyway, we got some lunch at a known college hangout, which brought back more memories and then it was time to go pick up our extra tickets for Hershey after dark.

We head back to the expo and actually pick up coupons for $7.99 off regular admission for up to 4 tickets. So instead of buying the tickets at the expo, we use the coupon and buy the tickets at the door. Ok. That works too. So anyway, while there at the expo I decide to visit a vendor and get some knit gloves and arm warmers. I did not look closely at the weather report. Am I glad I picked up those items.

So we had a good time at Hershey after dark, rode some rides and played some games. Then we went back to the campground to have some dinner and sit around the campfire. While dinner was cooking, I decided to get my gear ready for tomorrow. I pulled my bib number out of my packet and realized that there was only one safety pin in the packet. I started to panic but kept it together. I found two more in the trailer and figured I would be able to get one tomorrow before the start of the race. So after dinner I was surprised that no one was interested in going back into the park, which was fine by me. I already told my wife that I was not going to. So we let the fire die down and we all went to bed.

I had set my alarm for 6 am, it went off and I hit snooze (I thought) and closed my eyes. I woke up a half hour later and realized what happened. I almost went into a panic but then realized that all was ok for now. It was a chilly morning. I got the hot water going for my oatmeal and coffee. While the water was heating up I went to the rest rooms. When I came back the water was not quite ready yet so I got dressed. I ate breakfast and had a couple sips of coffee and then got my wife up so that she could drive me over to the start. I will say that I was very glad that I bought the arm warmers and gloves. They came in real handy as the temps were in the high 40s low 50s. It was a bit breezy but not like it was the day before.

So my wife drops me off and I walk over to the packet pickup tent. I was able to get a forth safety pin so that my bib would lay correctly on my shirt. So I go through my warm up routine, jog a bit, visit the portapotties, jog some more and do some stretching. I was feeling a bit nervous. This was my A race. I wanted to do well. Going into this race my ultimate goal is to get to a 2 hour time, but for this race I wanted to get 2:10 or under. Being that I got a 2:13 at a very hilly Freedoms Run a couple of weeks before I figured this should not be a problem.

So the runners are getting in the corals. An announcers voice comes over the air and makes some comments about the course and general information. I am listening to him but honestly not really paying attention. I am listening just closely enough to hear if there are any course changes or any other important things to keep in mind. Nothing. Time to really focus and concentrate and a last review of my game plan. That game plan was to run as comfortably as I could while keeping it under a 10 min mile pace. I figured that if I did that I would be under a 2:10 finishing time.

So as race reports go this is going to be real short as there is not much to say about the course itself. That is from what I can remember. I spent 4 years of my college life around Hershey that I knew what it looked like so I was not doing a lot of site seeing. I was focused on moving my feet forward, keeping my breathing under control and looking at my Garmin watch. The only thing that I was looking at my watch was the minute area of my pace. If it read 10 I was too slow, if it read 9 I was just right. If it read 8 I would evaluate how I felt. I only remember seeing an 8 once and I was going down hill so I did dial it back a bit. I felt focused. I took water at most aid stations and every other one I took Gatorade. At mile 10 I saw my wife and kids. She tried to take a picture of me, then ran a head. She told me to slow down so she could take a picture. I said, "no, I got this!". I was feeling really good. Taking it nice and relaxed. I saw them again around mile 12 and I knew it. I got this. But I kept to my word that I told my self before the race. Don't look at anything except for your min per mile pace, and maybe your heart rate every now and then.

I knew that I was going to get a PR. I was stoked. I turn the corner into the stadium and I am feeling good. I start to push it a bit. Instead of finishing on the field we run along the track and finish behind the end zone about in the middle. So I turn the corner and I look at the time. I am almost in shock. It read 2:02 and change. 2:02!!! I screamed in my head. Holy cow! I almost could not believe it. My official time was 2:02;36 not far off of my garmin time of 2:02;43. That is about 11 min PR from the Freedoms Run that I did 15 days earlier. I was beside myself. Now I am most confident that I can get under the 2 hour mark sooner rather then later. I can not wait to start focusing on that goal.

Speaking of goals, this was my third race that I was using to qualify for the Half Fanatics. I had my email draft all ready to go. All I had to do was enter the Hershey Half Marathon and the date and hit send. I did that. With in 24 hours I got a response back.

Hi Jim,You definitely qualify for the Fanatics at the Neptune (1 Moon) Level with your 3 races in 37 days.Congratulations.

All that I have to do is go through the process of completing the application on line and then I am in. I will up date with my id later once I receive it.

Now. Whats next. Not sure. I do have a couple of races planed but they are far enough out that I have not put down a clear training schedule yet. I am going to miss the Turkey Trot this year and I am rally down about it. I figured with what I was able to do at Hershey then I wanted to see what I would do at a shorter race. I am looking for a 5k or 10 for this winter but have not found one yet. We shall see what transpires.

Well that is all for now thanks for reading.

Monday, October 3, 2011

2 down - 1 to go Freedom's Run Race report

Well there is number 2.
On October 1st I participated in the Freedom's Run Half Marathon in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. It actually started on the campus of Shepherd University and headed into Maryland.
this is a running festival where they have a 5k, 10k Half Marathon and Full Marathon. They also have a kids run. All of the races start on the campus of Shepherd University except for the Marathon where they started at Harper's Ferry in the National Park.
For the Half Marathon we cross over the Potomac and run on the C&O Canal. We were told numerous times that even if you feel good to keep your pace down as there is a big hill at mile 3.
Well they were not kidding. But let me back up a bit.
I was not able to make it to packet pickup on Friday so I had to get up early to get up there for Saturday morning packet pickup. I live just under an hour away so instead of leaving at 6:30 for an 8:00 am start, I left about 5:45 as I really did not know where I was going. I wanted to make sure I got there and got myself squared away. I have a habit of not being a very good traveler especially when it comes to going somewhere that I have never been to and being alone.
Anyway, I got there with no issues as it was in the dark and raining. It was not raining very hard so that was a good thing. I had some oatmeal before leaving the house and I brought a peanut butter sandwich to eat a little later on.
I was able to find a parking spot in a lot right next to the start and portapotties. I went and picked up my packet and went back to my car to chill out and relax. I ended up going to the portapotties a couple of times before hand so it was good that I was parked close as it was still raining. It was not a heavy rain, it was more like a misting rain, one that is more of an annoyance then anything. The rain did help to keep the temperatures down. When we started it was in the high 40s to low 50s.
As it got closer to gun time, the rain let up. I got out of the car and started warming up a bit. With one last stop at the portapotties I made my way to the official start line. So there were a few announcements before the race got underway, one of particular was that when you are running on the C&O Path and are feeling good, so good that you want to up your pace....DON'T!
There is a big long hill coming up at mile 3 and 4. And just before gun time they sang the Battle hymn of the Republic.
And we are off.
I was set in my ways about just running a nice comfortable pace as I was not going for any specific time plus I knew that this was a fairly hilly course, and not that there were a lot of hills just steep ones.
So we cross over the Potomac and head down a steep hill toward the C&O Canal. There were police officers along the way that were holding up traffic. I try to make eye contact with them and say thank you for their time.
So we are running down the C&O trail and it is a narrow trail with some obstacles like branches and mud puddles that we have to deal with but nothing major.
So we exit the C&O trail and there it is. The big hill that they were telling us about.
It is a steep one and goes on for what seems like forever. I did hear a familiar voice behind me and it turns out that it was Doug from the local running group that I run with. I knew he was running in it but being that our schedules for before and after the race were different it did not make sense for us to car pool or we would have. Doug is training for the Marine Corp Marathon and was using this as a training run in preparation for the Marathon. He was looking to keep as close to a 10 min mile pace as possible and I was right there with him so we ran together for a bit.
We chatted a bit about things in general and nothing in particular.

I started to get into a zone and really started feeling good. We talked less and then all of a sudden I noticed that he was not beside me anymore. Well there was a water stop up a head and when I got up there did a quick turn around and he was no where to be seen. Well I kind of felt bad but kept on going. I figured that my orange hat would be a beacon for him to pace off of, plus we really did not discuss running together before the race anyway.

By now I was around mile 8 and still feeling good. I was not looking at my watch because I did not what to know anything. I was feeling good and therefore did not care what the time or the pace was. I figured I would analyze after the fact.

So I kept on plodding along and figured I would try to push it a little bit. I was really feeling good. My energy felt good as did my legs. I figured I would push for some negative splits and thought that it should be fairly easy to do as it was mostly down hill the second half of the race.

Well it seems that I was on pace to do just that.

We travel through the historic town of Sharpsburg and we are a mere 5k away from the finish. I start to push a little more, but not too much.

I see the bridge, I pick it up a little bit more. I start to pick people off one by one.

Here I go, coming across the bridge. I pass another person. I look ahead, there is someone else.

Coming into the home stretch, I look to the left and I can see into the stadium and the finish line.

I start to pick it up now, but not too much as there is a down hill that takes us to the stadium floor. I don't want to go too fast and fall forward. I have seen that happen and it is not a pretty sight.

There it is, the finish line.

I look at the clock and it read 2:13 and I think I AM GOING TO PR?!?!?!!? NO WAY!!!!!

I pick it up even more and cross the finish line. My garmin time was 2:13;30 but the official gun time was 2:13;58 I will take it. I was not trying for a PR but the weather was great for running in and I just felt great overall.

This goes to show that I fair better in the cooler weather then in the warmer weather races.

So at the half way point I figured I would try for negative splits, and I did that.

Here are my times:

Mile Time Avg Pace

1 10:12 10:12

2 10:19 10:19

3 10:30 10:30

4 11:09 11:10

5 10:13 10:13

6 10:39 10:39

7 10:39 10:39

8 10:31 10:31

9 10:07 10:07

10 10:03 10:03

11 9:32 9:32

12 9:30 9:30

13 9:04 9:04

14 0:56 7:48

Can not wait until Hershey. Hope I can improve on the time above. I know that Hershey is a fairly flat course so I am hoping that things go as well as they can.

That is all for now. Thanks for reading.

I don't feel that I am a very good writer so please provide any and all comments. I am hopping to improve my writting skills.