Last weekend, I ran my 26th half marathon in my quest for #lj50by30, the Deep Hollow Half marathon hosted by Liberty University Outdoor Recreation. I did this race back in 2015, and did not have the best experience.
For starters, it was my first trail half, and only fourth half ever. I may have had the hang of the roads by then, but I definitely underestimated doing a trail half marathon. However, there were several things that the race did that dampened my experience.
First, there were no mile markers after 8. Miles 8-13 are the longest and hardest miles of any half marathon, and it made them so much worse not knowing how far in I was. This was before I regularly wore a watch, so I really had nothing to go off of.
Second, by the time I made it to the last few aid stations, they had run out of food. Luckily I had brought my own, but it could have been a big problem.
The thing that bothered me the most was the finish. I finished next to last, and I was treated as an inconvenience. The finish line people handed me my arm sleeves (the finisher prize) and when I went to get my food, I found that it was all packed up.
So, needless to say, I had my hesitations coming back this year. I could have easily skipped it for another year, but I needed to run at least 13 miles as part of my marathon training plan, so I figured this would be an easy way to get them in (and I would get a medal at the end).
The day before the race I went to pick up my bib and shirt. This race always falls on homecoming weekend. and while I beat most of the traffic, it was still a little hard finding parking. Looking back, I could have easily waited until race morning to get it. After dinner, I came home, took my flat runner picture, and hit the hay!
Race morning, I woke up, ate a granola bar, and drove the 20 minutes from my house to the race start. In recent years, the camp where the Liberty Mountain trail races start has added a giant parking lot, so parking is a breeze.
The race saw a record number of participants this year, and it felt a little crowded at the start. Before I knew it, we were lining up to start! The gun went off, and I headed out into the woods for the next few hours.
The course is kind of uneventful, as far as trails go. Most of it is single track, and they are very peaceful to run through. However, the elevation gain is a little insane:
I felt really great for the first 10 miles. I was on track to PR big time. However, I am not used to running on trails at all, and it started to take its toll.
I walked the last 3 miles, but still managed to beat the last time I ran it by over 30 minutes. As a bonus, I wasn’t next to last and there was still plenty of food left!
I’m still definitely not a trail runner, but I was glad that I was able to get a redemption for the last time I ran this race. I’m not sure if I’ll come back next year, but I’m sure I’ll be back. Especially if they keep the finisher medals 😉