Last past weekend, I got to see if all my training is paying off. Back in March, I won an entry to the NCRC Classic Half Marathon at the silent auction during the RRCA Convention. Actually, I got a pretty awesome swag basket and the race entry, all for $15, so it was a great deal.
While the race felt like it was forever away back in March, it came up on me really fast. All last week I kept watching the weather, worried that I was going to overheat. I wanted to go for a PR attempt and beat the one I set at Rock n Roll Raleigh last year, but I knew that would be hard if it was hot. As of Friday morning, the weather looked sunny, but in the mid-60s at race start.
Saturday afternoon, I picked up my Nana who was coming along for moral support, and headed down to Raleigh. The race is actually in Cary, NC, but the packet pickup was in Raleigh at the Omega Sports in the North Hills Shopping Center. Personally, I found this really annoying. I know a lot of the runners are locals (in fact, at one point when I looked at the participant list, I was the only one not from NC), but the traffic getting in and out was not worth it considering there wasn’t an expo.
At this point the weather was hot. In fact, the race sent out an email advising runners that conditions would be hot and to take caution to drink plenty of water before, during, and after the race. After picking up my packet (which was just a bib and cotton shirt), we headed to our hotel, grabbed dinner at the O’Charley’s nearby, and watched a Jeff Dunham special until falling asleep. I checked the weather one last time before bed, and it was supposed to rain overnight and cool everything down.
My alarm went off Sunday morning and the weather looked good, so I quickly got dressed and ate my traditional pre-race granola bar.
When I arrived at the race site (conveniently 15 minutes from the hotel), I got prime parking. That was one of the best things about this race, the small size made the whole experience manageable.
As we lined up, I started to get nervous. I had big goals for the race, and had been training hard, and was scared of failing. I had 2 goals going into this:
- Beat my old PR of 2:11:27, even if it was by a minute.
- Break 2:05
I lined up with the 2 hour pacer in the hope I could hang with them for a while, and we were off!
The course started downhill, but was also out and back so I quickly learned I would need to save some for the finish to make it back up that same hill. I knew to beat my goals that I needed to have a 9 in front of all my miles, and the first few ticked by relatively smoothly. Around mile 5, I really hit my stride, and clocked some speedy downhills, hitting the turnaround at 1:01.
My plan to run with the pacers quickly fell apart, as they were all running too fast. Around mile 3, the 2:15 pacers were right behind the 2:00 pacers. I met up with the 2:15 guys again at the turnaround (again, I hit it at 1:01) and heard them say “Oh no! We are going too fast!” and then proceeded to walk a while to make up some of their time.
Coming back, I started to push the pace. In training the Monday before, I had held an 8:40 pace for a few miles, and knew I had it in me. So, I used the rolling course to my advantage and flew down the hills. At one point, I looked at my watch and was clocking a 7:55 pace!
The whole way back, I was trying to do the math to figure out what I would need to do to break 2 hours. Math is really hard when you’re running, but I figured if I could run sub-9s the last 3 or 4 miles I would come close. This was around the same time I started passing people who were getting burnt out having gone out too fast.
Mile 12 I met two fellow runners who chatted with me for a while, while rolling along pretty fast. Before I knew it, we were going back up that final hill. I watched my Garmin hit 2:00 right before I finished, but still managed to cross the mat at 2:00:55, breaking my previous PR by 10 minutes.
This was not my favorite race ever, but it had its advantages, number one being the weather. I don’t think I could have pulled that time if it had been hot and sunny. The overcast drizzle kept me cool and level headed. Additionally, the course had rolling hills that mimic what I run on my daily runs, so my body was well prepared for the course.
Had I paid $60 for the race experience, I would have been disappointed. But, with my discounted entry fee, I was perfectly happy with my experience and set a huge PR!
The best part of the experience was that I could tell the Hanson Marathon Method is working. I have 6 months until the Philadelphia Marathon, and this was the best I have ever felt after running a half marathon. My legs weren’t screaming, and I could have easily run another few miles at that pace before they would have worn out.
While this was definitely a one and done race, I did enjoy my experience and have fond memories of the whole experience.
Swag: 2/5 Participants get a cotton t-shirt only.
Course Support: 4/5 All of the aid stations were efficient and high energy! However, none of them provided food. Had I not brought my own, I would have been disappointed, as I don’t remember reading this in any of the emails.
Spectators: 1/5 The way the course was, it was not spectator friendly, and I didn’t really see anyone on the course other than other random runners and bikers using the trail.
Course: 4/5 While most people would probably knock off points for how hilly it was, I loved it. It is similar to what I run all the time, and I was able to use it to my advantage. The packed gravel felt good on my knees, too.
Medal: 5/5 I love the unique wood engraved medallion! It perfectly fits this race in the woods, and was made by a local artist.
Overall Experience: 3/5 This is a race I would have never picked otherwise, so I am glad that I won the entry in the silent auction!