Monday, March 21, 2011

Tobacco Road Half

Where do I begin? This was an awesome race, venue and day.

Tobacco Road Half Marathon began at the USA Baseball training facility in Cary and ran through the American Tobacco Trail retunring back to the training facility. The training facility was awesome and but trail was more impressive. I feel awful that I live so close to the trail and this was my first time running it.

This event had about 4,000 people participating and even more spectating so the training facility didn't have the parking to accommodate the crowd. A local business allowed us the use of their parking lot. Unfortunately we had to take a bus from the parking lot to the training facility. It was about 5 miles away but there was not a direct route from one to the other and the drivers didn't know where they were going. Ok, I am not a rocket scientist or the brightest bulb in the lot, but if I ran a charter coach bus service, I think I would have reconned the route. This little tidbit was overlooked and with the blocked roads and the indirect route, it made for busing HELL. Several buses got lost, many had to make U-turn after U-turn in order to make it to the facility. It was so bad in fact that the race was delayed 20 minutes to allow buses to unload. Not good.

Then leaving we had to walk about a mile from one end of the park to the other for the bus to leave. The buses back to the parking lot had some of the same difficulties as the earlier ones. Some people ended up waiting for over an hour after a long run waiting on a shuttle back to their cars. They were not very happy. Also the pick stop for the return trip was not very well marked so there was confusion about where to go.

Fortunately that is my only compliant about the entire day. Packed my bag and snacks for the race on Saturday night. Noticed that my shoes were pretty shot and that I would not be able to go another couple of days without getting new ones. Still couldn't find my number belt so I had to pin my number to my shirt. I really really hate that, but oh well what can you do?

Woke up around 4:45 for the trip to the parking lots. Linda and I left home around 5:05 and was at the park at about 5:35. This ended up being perfect. We were on the second shuttle to the park. Our driver who had never been in this area was trying to read a map as she was driving while a chatty passenger nervously talked her ear off and drove me insane. We arrived at the training facility at @ 6 and took a quick walk to acquaint ourselves with the lay of the land. After a quick survey, we were able to find a decent place to sit and just relax and watch some of the others arrive. I was freezing so I was not about to undress or start peeling off layers until I absolutely had to. Since it was still dark it was about 45 degrees out. At about 6:40 we were invited to start lining up. I still had a goal of 1:37 so I wanted to line up with the 1:40 pacer. Unfortunately the starting shoot was too crowded for me to get over there. I was stuck by the fence and not able to move over. But it was ok. I just decided that I would catch up to the pacer once we started moving.

Due to the delay in the buses we ended up spending about 30 minutes just standing around waiting for the start. This really helped with the nerves. I was thinking about how frustrating it was to wait and not thinking about the 13.1 miles to the finish. The race was scheduled to start at 7:00 and ended up actually taking off at 7:20.

Then we were off. The beginning was very crowded. I was lines up with the 7-8 min milers about mid pack and ended up having to weave through the crowd to caught up with my pacer and then once I cathc up with him, I felt it was a little slower that I wanted to run so I kept going. And ended up seeing the balloons of the 1:30 pacer. Not that I had any desire to run that pace.

Leaving the park and getting onto the road I was able to get in a rhythm. I felt my heart rate settling in and I found a clear path. I was easily staying in rhythm and my breathing was not very labored. At mile 4 we entered the Tobacco Trail which was like running on a dirt road. It was sweet. No problem with my heels, my knees were not crying. So i just maintained my pace. By mile 6 I was still maintaining pace and still didn't feel my heart racing so I just keep going. There was another runner who ran about the same pace with me for most of the race. We were in lock step for most of the run. He was right on my shoulder. That helped as well. It was a constant reminder that I was maintaining pace and not wearing myself out.

At mile 7 the leaders passed me going back in the opposite direction. This was very encouraging, because that meant the turn around could not be that far ahead. And then there it was at mile 8ish. The turnaround for me was very smooth. I do not like to drink while I am running and since it wasn't too hot I didn't feel like I was dehydrating so I skipped the water stops. I lost my friend at this point. Not sure what happened to him so I just kept going. Pace still felt pretty good.

As I was running back I was able to see some of the other runners. I figured out that I was about well ahead of the 1:40 pacer. I was excited. Then I started looking ahead as far as I could see for the 130 pacer. I was hoping that I would catch him. That would mean that I was increasing my pace.

At mile 10 we hit the road again. And unfortunately it was uphill. this is where I hit the wall. It was at this point I started hearing myself breathing and I felt my legs start to tighten up. So I took my last GU and pressed on. In my head I was thinking I just need to stay ahead of the 1:40 pacer. And the best way for me to do that would be to not allow anyone to pass me. So I pressed on. At mile 12 we finally leveled off so I was feeling really comfortable that I would beat my goal and I began thinking that I might be able to beat 1:35 as well.

Finally somewhere between miles 12 and 13 I was passed. She (yeah that's right, she) ran by me like I was standing still. There was nothing I could do. There was another female just in front of me who I had been seeing for about a mile and was closing. So I just told myself to pass her to make up for it. Finally I was able to see the entrance to the park and I felt great. I knew that I was ahead of my goal and I could feel that it was down hill so I just cruised the rest of the way. I did past the female that was just in front of me.

Overall the race was awesome. I felt great after it was over. I didn't feel like I was totally spent and I wasn't cramping. My tank was pretty empty but not completely. I wasn't in a hurry to just get out of there. I walked around and watched some of the others finishing and cheered for them.

I want to thank Linda for hanging out this cold morning waiting for me. I know it was extremely difficult to just sit around for 2 hours freezing but you are a trooper and I appreciate it. The race volunteers for their cheerleading along the course and shouting words of encouragement. FS Series for the excellent job of organizing and setting up the events. The course was very well marked and every turn was manned. Awesome job.

Final time 1:33:48. Race pace 7:09 per mile. Finished 88 overall.

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