While hubbs took care of littlest I went through the per-race drill; potty, shower, getting dressed and fueled. It was a bit different for me because we had a drive of a hour and twentyish minutes I am used to either staying over night in the vicinity or participating in a somewhat local races.
Familiar or not the morning went smoothly and quickly until we got to the end of my google map directions. LESSON #1 NEVER trust a google map. LESSON #2 or SUB-LESSON of #1 ALWAYS call the race director (of smallish race anyway).
As it turns out no one on the street in State College actually lives there and is familiar with where Beaver Stadium actually is. At least not the first 35 people we asked. That wonderful 36th person a lovely dark-hair young lady with EXCELLENT local geography and direction giving skills!! Thanks wonderful girl!! Because we were getting there none too early...that could be because first you HAVE to drive around a bit before you ask for direction, right? It's a law, right? My hubbs tells me it is. It must be so.
We arrive. Hubbs drops me at the door and I go in to pick up my chip and lovely long sleeve shirt. Cute logo It reads, " Nittany Valley 26th Annual Half Marathon. If you haven't ran it...you don't know the half of it!"...more on that later.
The building is crowded with runners! Ekkkk! There are a LOT of people here. I do not love lots of people. There are hundreds more out side. Ekkk!
With the late arrival, there is only a potty visit an a quick mile warm up jog. Hubbs and I pose for a snap shot thanks to a nice lady who is in the crowd of runners gathering outside. Having heard announcements earlier I assume that there will be an announcement that the runners should gather at the starting line (which was where?). LESSON #3 Pay attention to the race...not so much the pictures.
My hubbs is the one who realizes that we are in the back of the pack of runners and the front appears to have started. Ekk! I don't want to start at the back of the pack! Too late. Oh well, I have a chip so that should be okay. I am hoping.
The race starts with 2 laps of a mile each around a mostly gravel ...road...path. It was narrow. It was snow covered. It was ICE! Remembering all my bloggie friends and everything I already know about racing I think that I will just use those 2 miles to start out slow. Not go out too fast. Well, ice is not starting out slowly. Ice makes the hundreds of runner in front of me run like snails. And some of them fall down. (don't worry. No injuries. And I helped a lady who was running near me up when she fell.) After a little more than 2 miles I was at 9:48. A MILE. I was freaking out. As soon as I hit the dry-ish paved road I started to run! I spent the next 4 - 5 miles weaving through people to try and find a way back to a decent pace while remembering all the warnings about the second half of this half marathon being SO hilly.
With the hills and warning is mind I tried to tell myself that I wanted to enjoy this race, the scenery (it had just snowed the day before and it still hung on everything), the other runners, the whole experience. So I did. As I passed other runners I chatted briefly or ran with them for a little while. I looked around and took in all the mountain and fields. I was having a great time!
The miles were not marked very well. In fact after the first two miles, I only saw the 6, 8 and 10 mile markers. At the six mile I had made up a little time and knew I still had lots of energy and felt like I could run a full marathon so I picked up the pace for 2 miles. During that time I fell into running with a younger girl dressed in black head to toe. She is one of those runners who just look effortless. We chatted a bit. Then I made the mistake of running her pace. LESSON #4 NEVER run with someone when you have a goal time WITHOUT asking theirs. (Of course, if I had borrowed my hubbs Garmin this would not have happened so I apologize to all those out there who use Garmins for being...thick headed/stubborn enough to not just use it.)
I had been told that after about mile 7 the grade/hills really amped up. The graph on the website had also confirmed this. LESSON #5 I do NOT know how to accurately read an elevation graph. (This my hubbs had tried to tell me was true prior to the race. Sorry honey for not listening to you) BECAUSE. The.hills.in.this.half.are.NOT.bad.at.all! Maybe if you are a flat-lander and train on flat land this half would hurt but I absolutely save way too much for the hills that never came.
By the time I saw mile 10, that last marker I would see, I keep thinking, "okay maybe the next hill will be bad so don't push too hard and then have to walk." I was still out pacing my young girl making-it-look-easy runner friend so I held the pace. But the next hill was just a hill. "Okay the final mile or so has been advertised as 'making you see God,'" I told myself so again I didn't push. Until I saw the final stretch. This was not anything that I don't run every day. Often twice a day. My favorite 6.5 loop has hills (both ways) just like this (with the exception of a 6% down hill at mile 7ish which was great to fly down!). I was very upset when I realized I was going to finish this half way slower than I was easily capable of.
I only allowed my pitty party to last a couple of strides. Reminding myself that I had (would soon) finish this half marathon in less than great conditions (27 degrees on ice and snow) and I was going to finish feeling GREAT and I would have an okay pace 1:53 (8:42 non-chip time) . Yeah that last one really does upset me but I learned many lessons at this race or was reminded of things I forgot that I should already know. And next year if life brings me back I will look forward to running this race smarter.
So as I neared the finish line I was all smiles knowing that with the knowledge I had about the course I had run a very smart race.
Feeling so good I went for another 2 miles to even out my day (HBBC points!) hoping to see the age group tallies. We didn't get to stay that long so I will have to wait and see how I did against the pack we needed to head home to get our wonderful kiddos (aka rescue the oldest from the younger two).
After crossing the finish line. All smiles!