After a lot of training and planning, I finally took part in my first half marathon in Charlottesville today. It went as expected for the most part. The one thing that I was not ready for was the hills. I wasn't expecting the course to be as "rolling" as it was. There were a lot more hills than I had thought there would have been. I even checked out the elevation profile of the course before hand. Here is a quick description of my race.
Getting to the Start line: Since the race started at 6:30 am, I had planned to walk from the hotel to the starting line. It was going to be just over 1.5 miles. I figured it would be a nice warm up and it would be good to get my legs loose. So, I got up at 5:00 am and quietly got dressed without waking the boys. I used some hot water from the hotel's breakfast area to make some oatmeal that I brought from home. I knew the hotel would not be serving breakfast that early, so I planned ahead. With my oatmeal in hand I set out to start my walk. After only a quarter mile, a fellow pulled over and asked if I wanted to ride to the race. I usually don't like riding with strangers, but the temperature was in the 30's and I had shorts on. So, I climbed in. He was a very nice gentleman with an eastern European accent. He was the first one to warn me of the hills on the course. He told me that he had tracked the route the day before and said that there were lots of hills. After getting to the race an hour earlier than expected, I found a seat at the bar at the Main Street Arena and watched some Sportcenter. I checked my bag at 6:00 am and started to warm up.
Mile one: The start was very crowded and everyone had to funnel through a small starting gate. I didn't try to push my way to the front of the starting group, so it took me about 4 minutes to get to the gate once the starting gun sounded. Then the runner dodging began. I zig zagged my way through slower traffic, trying not to clip anyone's feet along the way. My plan of keeping my splits in the multiple of 9 range failed at mile one. I started my iPod with the starting gun, so my first mile was clocked at over 11 minutes. So much for that plan.
Miles two and three: We passed through part of the UVA campus during these miles. It was early enough in the race that I actually just cruised and took in the sights. We passed by The Rotunda during this section of the race.
Miles three and four: I got my first water stop during these miles and almost choked myself to death. I tried to drink a cup of water without slowing down and it definitely didn't go down too good. I think some came through my nose at some point. This section of the race took us across Rt. 29 and into the horse country of Albemarle County. The course turned into a winding two lane country road. Even though the scenery was beautiful, this was the section of "rolling" hills that I was not expecting.
Miles six and seven: During the second water stop, I decided to actually walk and drink my water! Then it was off to tackle some more hills. The hardest hill came during this section of the race. Just past the top of that hill was the course turnaround. Then we got to back track the same road back into town. It was somewhat reassuring to know that no big course surprises were left. I would know all the roads that were left because we were just returning the same road for most of the remaining miles. I decided it was a good time to take a GU gel, so I started to slowly eat a packet. Even though I charged my iPod the entire night before the race, it decided to die on me. So I no longer had any way of getting split times and I didn't have a watch either.
Miles eight, nine, and ten: It was during these miles that my legs really started to tighten up on me. I felt like I was really struggling to keep the same pace I had been running for the first half of the race. Coming into the race, I told myself that I was going to keep a consistent pace through 10 miles and then kick it up a notch for the final three. I was really starting to question whether or not I was going to be able to do that now.
Miles eleven, twelve, and thirteen: These were the miles that I had planned to really push my pace. But when I finally got to this section of the race, I had hardly anything left in my tank. I tried to pick up my pace, but my legs would just not move any faster. Coming into the race I had a primary goal of just finishing the race. My secondary goal was to run a sub two hour race. It was at this point in the race I really started to doubt that I would accomplish my secondary goal. I felt like my pace was already falling off and according to my iPod during the first few miles, my pace wasn't too good to start with. So, I concentrated on just finishing the race as well as I could.
The Finish: The finish line really snuck up on me. I didn't see the 13th mile marker and I thought we had a few more hills to run. But as I turned a corner, the finish line was in site and to my surprise, the clock read 1:51. I was going to make my sub 2 hour race after all. So, I pushed myself through the finish line. My gun time was 1:54:07 (8:43 pace) and my chip time was 1:50:55. I was so happy that I accomplished both of my prerace goals. Then I heard Eli shouting "Daddy". I turned around and saw Anna and the boys coming down the sidewalk. They had made from the hotel the finish line in time to see me cross. Eli snapped the picture below and then drank my free chocolate milk. Coy enjoyed my post race banana. It was great to be able to do my cool down walk with Anna and the boys.
I consider the entire race weekend a success. I met both of my personal goals while completing my first half marathon on a very challenging course. Plus I got to hang out with Anna and the boys.
Eli took this picture with his camera!