Race Recap: First Watch Sarasota

Now that mom’s a half marathoner, we’ve been on a quest to find interesting races that we can to together. Given that mom is a walker (granted, a fast one, but a walker), we are always searching for races that advertise as being walker-friendly, or that have a good cut off time suitable for walkers in interesting locations. In our quest to find interesting races that fit the criteria, we identified the FirstWatch Sarasota Half Marathon as a contender. Once we leaded about the area, we signed up immediately. A run over a bridge, on a key, and through stately homes, all ocean-front? Yes, please!

Mom and I decided that the best plan was to stay overnight in a hotel in Sarasota (terrible, I know) and enjoy the area before the half marathon. We found our place easily and set off to check out the area. It’s gorgeous. For those of you who haven’t been to Sarasota, look it up on a map. The whole city is right on the water, with keys along the coast. It’s amazing. The city also seems to enjoy art, as evidenced by the amazing art installations all along the city sidewalks.

art

After enjoying some time in the city, admiring the enormous statue of the kissing sailor, it was time for our early bed time. Race morning dawned early, with clear skies and crisp air. It was approximately 68 degrees at race start, perfect racing conditions. Mom and I snapped a few quick pictures, then set off.

Before Sarasota

The course went along Route 41, the waterfront main drag and immediately headed out toward the Ringling Bridge. The view over the bridge was amazing – stately homes, bobbing boats, and water as far as the eye could see. Next, the course wound through St. Armand’s Circle, the little shopping area and center of St. Armand’s Key. It was lovely, old Florida style. Next, it was back up and over the bridge. By this time the sun was up and the day was bright and clear. The course continued back along the main drag, past several well-staffed aid stations, and right past the Ringling art museum. It’s a funny pink building nestled in the midst of a small neighborhood. The neighborhood was an eclectic mix of beach cottages, vacation homes, and lovely waterfront mansions, complete with their associated compound behind firmly closed gates. Each section of the neighborhood had its own little park, all of them water front. As we wound through the homes and past the parks, we were treated to great views and friendly spectators. About halfway through the neighborhood, we passed a fabulous art deco school. Sadly, I wasn’t fast enough to snap a picture, but it was a great piece of Florida architecture. The neighborhood section was calm, quiet, and shady. All along the way we encountered great characters – only in Florida does a race marshall bring his own parrot.

Parrot

Once out of the neighborhood, it was just another mile or two to the finish line. Both mom and I loved the course. It was perhaps the best designed course I’ve ever run. It was just perfect. The hills were manageable, even for Floridians, the views spectacular, and the shady neighborhood positioned at just the right spot. There were cheering fans, great water stops, and friendly people all along the way.

At the finish line, volunteers greeted us with our medals (a lovely abstract dolphin) and water. There was a huge finish line party with a live band and tents on the water’s edge. Perhaps the only thing not wonderful about the First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon was the post-race food. It was not good at all. There were bagels (plain and raisin), a few muffins that looked like they wilted in the heat, and a disgusting-looking melted yogurt parfait. There were lots of parfaits left over. The yogurt was warm and runny and even these starving half marathoners couldn’t bring ourselves to eat it.

It’s worth note that the race really was walker friendly. Mom and I were far from the last walkers and the spectators and water stop volunteers were cheerful, plentiful, and happy to see us. We enjoyed all the same amenities as runners. I felt welcomed and encouraged as a walker.

Overall, I loved the First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon. Not only would I do it again, I would recommend it to anyone looking for a well designed course with great views. And though it’s hilly for Florida, anyone who conquers the bridge is rewarded with a great view.

Sarasota Half Marathon Elevation

Sarasota Half Marathon Elevation

Sarasota Half Marathon Course

Sarasota Half Marathon Course

 

Lions and Tigers and 8 Minute Miles

I rarely talk about pace here, mostly because it simply isn’t that important to me. Once upon a time I was much faster, but knee surgery happened and things are different now. Slowly and steadily, I’ve been working on my speed. I would love to get back to where I was pre-surgery, but that seems pretty far off sometimes. I’m older, living in a hillier climate, and, frankly, not in prime racing shape. But I’m getting faster. Lately, my biggest problem hasn’t been my speed. It’s been my brain.

8:20 used to be my long run pace. I love 8:20. It feels great. It’s easy and smooth and it’s my “happy pace”. I finally saw 8:20s in training last fall. Then, I hit 8:20s consistently in a half marathon. But every time I made it, I quickly lost it. It started with little tendrils of panic. I worried about being able to maintain the pace. Then, the voice in my head took over. In a matter of minutes, I went from running comfortably to full-on panic. I convinced myself that I couldn’t keep it up. I couldn’t run 8:20s for more than a mile no matter how easy it felt physically. No matter that I’d been running consistent 7s in my private training runs and hold it for a couple miles. Put me around people and I panicked.

Today, I ran a great local race. I set out with one goal – run below 8:20 average miles for the first 4.5 miles. Then, at the enormous hill at 4.6 miles, walk up the hill and ease my way to the finish line. The first mile started a little slow and that familiar feeling of panic set in. I prevailed over the voice in my head telling me I couldn’t and hit an 8:25 first mile. My second mile was 8:10. Going into the third mile I started to think. Physically, I felt great. I was easily running along, chatting off and on with a nice man near me. I was talking and running and feeling fine physically, but the mental part was a struggle. I spent the next mile trying to convince myself that if I could *talk* at an 8:20 pace I would be fine. And I was fine. I sailed through the third mile and into the fourth. I came upon some hills and ran them easily at 8:18. I made it to the foot of the big hill and could hardly believe it. My average pace was 8:22. Goal achieved, I eased my pace and floated to the finish line. I had broken the 8:30 barrier. Next up, a half marathon at 8:30 and a 5k in the 7s. Speedy former self, I’m coming for you.

Racing

Race Recap: Harrisburg Marathon

Recently, my running friend and I were discussing marathons. Both of us were craving another marathon. We discovered our schedules were similar and started to look at marathons we might run together. I found the Harrisburg Marathon and we  immediately signed up and started planning our trip to Harrisburg.

I knew that the trip to Harrisburg would be a quick one. I would be nearing the end of my crazy travel and running extravaganza. In fact, I would leave directly from the airport following my trip to San Antonio and head right to Harrisburg. Luckily, a last minute change in my flight schedule let us get an early start to Harrisburg. It was a pleasant drive through lovely countryside. We got to Harrisburg around dinner time, checked in to our amazing hotel, and headed to dinner. We stayed at the Raddison Harrisburg. For anyone planning a trip to Harrisburg, consider the Raddison. The staff were wonderfully kind, the hotel was clean, the beds were comfy, and they hotel staff offered to let us stay as late as we liked on Sunday after the marathon. We couldn’t ask for a better hotel. After dinner, we decided to ride down to the race start to get a sense of parking and race-day organization.

Harrisburg night

It was gorgeous. The race start was at the foot of a pedestrian bridge that lead from City Island to city center. The capitol was lit up for the night and the whole scene was lovely.

Race day morning dawned bight and early. It was clear, sunny, and really hilly at 35 degrees. Packet pick up was in a large building on City Island. Thankfully, the building was heated by huge heat fans. Food and drinks were plentiful and the volunteers were friendly.

Harrisburg Marathon check in

The race was small and runners gathered inside awaiting the start of the race. Professional pacing was provided by MarathonPacing.com.

The race began on City Island and moved across the bridge to the city center. The course wound briefly through the city center, through a small park (a half mile or so were on a gravel trail) and paved trail along the river. Then, the course went across the Market Street Bridge back to City Island. The early miles of the course were lovely. The bridges are charming and the sun was shining. The course was well-marked.

Harrisburg bridges

The weather was fall weather at its finest. Unfortunately, the bliss of the early miles would fade. A few miles later, the course would curve along the river and the weather would turn. The sky clouded, the light darkened, and the wind picked up. What was pleasant, 45 degree running weather quickly turned into 35 degrees and cloudy with a significant windchill. The course went along the river for a while and then into a neighborhood. The residents seemed a bit perplexed as to why we were running through their neighborhood, but volunteers were on hand to direct traffic and help the runners move smoothly through the course. I had been running along well, hanging with a friend who was pacing for the race. We had a nice time chatting, and I enjoyed her group.

Unfortunately, things started to deteriorate around mile 15. Near the end of the neighborhood section, I had to visit the port-a-pottie. Not good. I wasn’t feeling the best and slowed my pace a bit. Around mile 16, the course moved into an industrial area. The industrial area was unpleasant at best. The road was bumpy, the scenery was terrible (distribution centers, barbed wire, and tractor trailers as far as the eye could see), and I struggled mentally. I knew some late hills were coming, so I conserved my energy and moved along at a steady pace. The course then passed into a community college parking lot. This part of the course was inexplicable. I don’t know why it was necessary to run through such an unpleasant area. Just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, we turned into a park. I was delighted. A park! Sadly, the joy was short lived. At mile 18, the hills began. And they were hills. With hills at the worst possible time, I struggled. I was freezing cold, mentally spent, and physically exhausted. The hills seemed relentless. Finally, at mile 21, we left the park and headed back to the neighborhood. I was done. Mentally, I was worn out. Finishing the rest of the race was a struggle. It was a lesson in the importance of

As we turned back along the river and the steady wind blew me around, I tried to stay positive. I was running a marathon and enjoying a fun trip with a friend. The course was challenging. Those hills just ate me up. It was difficult mentally. All in all, I struggled in this marathon. I enjoyed it, but it was difficult.

Overall, the race was well done. The organizers sent multiple emails before the race, outlining aspects of the race that are critical to runners. The pre-race food was nice, check in was organized, and bag check was easy to use. The course was well marked and the aid stations were well stocked. At the finish line, cheering fans greeted the runners. Each finisher got an attractive finishers’ medal and a mylar blanket (best blanket ever!) and was ushered into the warm building. In the post-race building, there was ample food and drink. There were sandwiches, chips, fruit, and candy. It was a nice spread.

With the excellent organization and big-race amenities and a small race field, the Harrisburg Marathon was a nice event. The course was challenging and I’m not sure I would run it again. I would have loved to have some of the race run through Harrisburg itself. It looked like a cute city with friendly people and clean streets.

Harrisburg

Lake Winnipesaukee Relay Replay

Once again this year, my team and I made the trip to New Hampshire for the Fred Brown Lake Winnipesaukee Relay. This was the 25th running of the relay and a great excuse for some fun on the lake with friends. Most of the team had run in 2012 (here’s our team recap Part 1 and Part 2, with descriptions of the legs) so we were prepared for a fun weekend.

Last year, the weather ranged from 95 and sunny to 45 and raining, so I packed an entire running wardrobe. I wanted to be prepared for anything. We arrived Friday night and had dinner at a local restaurant, Sandy Point Resort. The food was basic but delicious and the service was outstanding. I never get tired of the lake views.

Lake Winnipesaukee View

Bright and early Friday morning, my team and I departed for the start at Weirs Beach. We stopped on the way at our favorite little shop/bakery in Alton Bay and got some snacks. I got my favorite, cake donuts! Yum!

Lake Winni Donuts

Once our first runner was off, my car (the second group to run), went off for breakfast. This would turn out to be a fateful decision. Since you’ve already had one recap of the race itself, I will skip ahead to the key points. Our team supported each other, offering water and moral support all along the race course. The day heated up from 45 at the start to 80 and sunny by 2pm. Around that time, it was finally my turn to run. I ran Leg 5, 10.6 miles through “beautiful countryside”. I was looking forward to the run, but not to the mental struggle I knew it would be. At the start of my leg, my team was about 15 minutes behind the next closest runner. All day long, we had been the last people in the exchange and the race staff had cleaned up around us. I felt badly for our runners, who had run just as far and worked just as hard as everyone else, but who didn’t get the support other runners got. The race organizers cleaned up, packed up, and basically ignored us. It was really too bad.

Nothing - where there once was an exchange.

Nothing – where there once was an exchange.

Nonetheless, I was ready to run and do my best to chase the person who had a huge head start. Imagine my surprise when I entered my exchange and found that another team was still there! Their runner had gotten lost and I would likely have someone to run with. I left the exchange first and headed out along a very rural, winding route. The road was surprisingly busy and there was no shoulder, so I ran the whole thing on the very edge of the road with a steep camber. It was brutal on my ankles and cars were not going slowly, nor did many yield to me. It seemed a little scary. It was hot and hilly, but I moved along at a good clip.

Leg 5 Elevation

About 5 miles into my run, the runner from the other team started to run near me. It was nice to have some company, but he wasn’t the most chatty gentleman. Onward we ran. At that point, I began to experience the first signs of GI distress. This was not good. I instantly regretted the eggs I had for breakfast (a previously untested food and, clearly, a stupid move on my part). I felt horrible, but pressed on and held pace. After about six miles, I began to see the same U-Haul taking down the directional arrows. They waiting until I was in sight of the arrow and then took it down. In front of me. How demoralizing. I get it. I’m last. But, seriously, you couldn’t wait five more minutes. As the U-Haul jumped ahead, the driver kept checking in with me. At first I appreciated the sentiment, but over time, it became irritating. I am FINE. I was running at a good clip, with no signs of struggle. I understood that I was last, but it was a team race. It wasn’t as if I had been struggling. I had to look at every single street sign to make sure I wasn’t lost. Mentally, it was a challenging run. Finally, I made the last turn on to the final road. I was so happy to see the run come to an end. And even happier to see a porta-potty at the exchange. I hustled directly to the facilities. Whew!

Dr. Rachel Winni

Overall, I had fun running with my friends and a great time at Lake Winnipesaukee. I hope we’ll be back next year.

Race Review: The Danze Sprint Triathlon

I’m a new triathlete and I’ve been working on developing my skills. This summer, I’m taking swimming lessons to try to improve in the discipline. I’m getting faster and stronger and I thought it was time to test my skills. As a test, I signed up for the Danze Sprint Triathlon organized by Ocean State Multisport. The race featured a 1/4 mile swim, a 10 mile bike, and a 4 mile run. The run is a bit longer than a sprint distance, but I appreciated the extra mile on the run. It’s my best discipline and I might as well enjoy it.

The day was gorgeous, if a little chilly for a swim. It was 55 degrees, dry, and bright. I arrived at the beach and was instructed to drive to a local church for parking. The young man giving instructions didn’t realize that everyone wasn’t a local, so his directions were a little unclear. After driving a bit (and seeing some of the bike course, which was a real plus), I found the church and the parking. Packet pick up and body marking was at the church. I got all my gear together and rode my bike to the start line.

Triathlon

The swim was a beach start at a lovely lake. The quarter mile swim was well marked and looked manageable. Once in the water, I noticed that the water was warm and clear. It was great! there were quite a lot of aquatic plants, but I didn’t mind them. Most were broad leafed seaweed that could be easily kicked off. The swim start was a little chaotic, but the field thinned quickly and I had great underwater visibility.

Triathlon beach

After the swim, I ran the short distance to the transition area. I appreciated that the transition area was very close to the swim and in a blacktopped parking lot. I didn’t have to cross rocks or grass to get to transition, so I could run smoothly without worrying about my feet. The transition area was organized by number, so I was able to quickly get in and get my biking gear together.

The bike was hilly and challenging, with a long, steep incline at the start of the bike section. The bike course was very well marked, with white signs pointing the directions and a course that went along marked roadways. Police were present at all major intersections and directed bike traffic smoothly along the course. Toward the end of the 10-mile bike course, the course wound into a small residential neighborhood near the lake. It was hilly and challenging riding, but the views of the fields and lake were gorgeous. I was able to easily navigate on the bike course.

After the bike, I rolled smoothly into transition to prepare for the run. Running is my best discipline, so I was thrilled to be able to run. The run course started with a long, gradual hill which got my legs warmed up quickly. The run course then flattened with gradual, rolling hills through lovely neighborhoods. The course was well-marked, with huge white signs and volunteers with flags all along the course. Each white sign had the cell phone number of the race director just in case a runner was lost or needed help. I easily navigated the run course and found that it turned into the same neighborhood to finish as the bike course had. Since I knew that part of the course, I picked up the pace and was able to finish the run in a time that I felt proud of.

The finish line was clearly marked and finishers were greeted by helpful volunteers. There was a wide selection of fruit and plenty of water. Results were posted quickly and free massages were offered to all finishers. I had an amazing massage and enjoyed talking with some fellow finishers.

Overall, the Danze Sprint Triathlon was a lovely race. It was well organized and the course was well marked. The courses for all three disciplines were interesting, challenging, and beautiful. It was a great race to complete and I highly recommend it, and all of the OceanState Multisport events.

Triathlon success

 

Race Recap: Sehgahunda Trail Marathon Relay

A few weeks ago, some running friends and I made the trek to upstate New York for the Sehgahunda Trail Marathon and Relay. Organized by Fleet Feet Sports Rochester and Yellow Jacket Racing, we made the trek to run with some friends who live in the area and are part of the Fleet Feet Endurance Team.

Our weekend started with a great trail run at a favorite local spot. Friday, we picked up packets at Fleet Feet and got to see both locations. The staff were friendly and the running gear selection was excellent. The weather wasn’t great (39 degrees and rainy – in June!), so we spend the rest of the day inside, resting up for the race. The race includes a marathon and a 2- and 4-person relay option. We were signed up for the 4-person team and were ready for a fun day.

Saturday morning, bright and early, we made our way up to the Mount Morris Dam. The Dam is on the Genesee River in Letchworth State Park. The Dam is remarkable. I had no idea that the Sehgahunda Valley was so deep and wide. The sights were simply amazing!

Mt. Morris Dam

It was a gorgeous day, cold, and bright. A small group gathered at the start and listened to some last minute instructions.

Sehgahunda start

Runners were told to mind the trail, watching for roots, rocks, and “gullies”. Having never experienced a gully, I asked some local runners. Apparently a gully is a ditch with a stream in the middle. The trail is advertised as highly technical and it didn’t disappoint. I ran the first leg, about six miles through open plain, forrest, and rocky hillside. The trail was highly technical, with roots and rocks galore. I lost count after about 10 gullies. Some were little bumps in the trail, others were deep crevasses with a mud puddle at the bottom. One was easily 5 feet deep with sheer mud sides. Crawling was required. Another had a flowing stream in the bottom, requiring a shuffle through six inches of swiftly moving water. I loved the course. It was well marked and the trail was clearly identified and well thought out. It was clear that runners organized and planned the course. It was such an enjoyable experience to run that I lost track of the miles.

I made it through my miles quickly and managed to pass a few people. I loved the scenery and enjoyed the challenge of the new terrain. I was covered in mud by the time I reached the incline up to River Road for the exchange.

Sehgahunda exchange 1

Each exchange point was staffed with helpful volunteers who filled water bottles and passed out food and drinks. A great food selection was available at each check point – chips, fruits, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and a variety of commercial fuels from Honey Stinger.

Overall, I loved the course and had so much fun. Everyone I interacted with was amazing – helpful and happy. Every aspect of the race was well organized and carefully run. The Fleet Feet Endurance Team did an amazing job. I would highly recommend the Sehgahunda Trail Marathon and Relay for trail runners looking for a challenge. I hope to be running it again next year!

Mini Race Recap: Hartford 1/4 Marathon

The Greater Hartford Quarter Marathon, hosted by the Hartford Track Club and benefitting Blazeman Foundation for ALS, was a great race. With wonderful weather, a big group of friends, and a beautiful course, it was just about perfect.

The race course is a two-loop course run around the paved trails in the MDC Reservoir in West Hartford. It’s a gorgeous course. The first couple (and middle couple since it’s a loop) miles have a number of what we New Englanders call “rollers”, gradual hills that make for a smooth up and down experience.

About 2 (and 4.5) miles into the race, the course comes around a bend, giving runners a picturesque view of the runners ahead as they pass beyond a lake and around a curve. It was gorgeous. The sun was shining on the water and the birds were chirping. Beautiful! The course was extremely well marked, with accurate mile signs and sand markings noting the course direction. It would be difficult to go the wrong way given that the course is a well-planned loop on paved trails. A runner would have to work hard to get lost in this one. The wooded views were magnificent and the lakes, ponds, and reservoir areas were the picture of New England beauty.

Quarter Marathon 2013

To check out the pictures from the event, head on over to the event’s Facebook page.

Details for Rachel’s outfit, above: Lululemon Pace Crops in black/frond, Lululemon Rise and Shine Pullover in frond, Lululemon Speed Demon Run Hat (best hat ever, by the way – it has a short, curvy brim that keeps sun out of your eyes from the side!), and Brooks Pure Flow shoes

Race Recap: Monson Memorial Classic

On November 11, 2012, several members of my running club and I ran in the Monson Memorial Classic. The Monson Memorial Classic features three events – a half marathon, a 5k run, and a 2 mile walk. Monson Mass. was devastated by a huge tornado a few years ago and since then it’s become a popular running spot thanks to several benefit races. The Memorial Classic benefits a number of cancer awareness causes.

This wasn’t my first time running Monson, but several teammates were there for the first time. It was great fun to run the races as a team. Six members of our crew ran the half marathon and five members of our crew (plus one junior member) ran the 5k. I ran the half marathon last year, and decided this was the year to try the 5k. This review will focus on the 5k, but I’ve included some tidbits about the half marathon since I ran that last year and had some spies who could report on this year’s event.

The race begins and ends near the town hall, a lovely historic building. Race day was warm, about 60 degrees, and partly cloudy. The race got off to a rocky start. Packet pick up began just an hour before the race, and race day registration was available. A combination of a late start, plus no discernible organization to the check in/packet pick up area led to really long, disorganized lines.

After waiting about 10 minutes in line, someone came out and began trying to convince 5k runners to go inside. We went inside and found more people. I would say that there were lines, but it was really more a gathering of people standing in an area. No one seemed to know what was going on. We persevered and got packets. There was nice race swag. Everyone got a long sleeve technical t-shirt and a water bottle. Half marathoners got a pint glass with the race logo. In a somewhat odd move, the race organizers passed out finishers’ medals for the half marathon at race check in. I thought it was very strange (and anti-climactic) to get the finishers’ medal at the same time as the race number. It wouldn’t have taken much extra work to pass the medals out at the finish line and I’m sorry that the race organizers didn’t do this. The large crowds at check in were encouraging. I like seeing lots of runners come out for charity races, particularly challenging ones. I really had the sense that the organizers were surprised by the number of registrants.

Due to the chaos of packet pick up, the race started about 20 minutes late. At start time, a bagpiping duo led runners to the half marathon start in the middle of route 32. Traffic was temporarily suspended. The half marathon got started and the remaining runners voyaged to the nearby start of the 5k run and 2 mile walk. Several minutes later, traffic was held and the 5k began.

The 5k course starts on Route 32, the main roadway in the area, and proceeds about 1 mile up Route 32. Then, the race turned right on Route 32, and took another right onto a back road. It was a relief to be on the back road. Traffic was not stopped, there were no cones, and there were no race marshals or volunteers, so traffic was zipping by the runners. Given that Route 32 is a main road, there were a lot of cars. The back roads were lovely, slightly hilly, and scenic. One of the roads was in the path of the tornado that devastated the town a couple years ago, and it was nice to see the rebuilding in progress.

At mile 2, there was what I assume was meant to be a water stop. It was a folding table with several cups of water on it. It was totally unattended and on the opposite side of the road from the race. I wish the race organizers had secured a volunteer to hand out the water, or at least put the table on the right side of the road so runners actually passed it. By the time I realize that it was actually a water stop, I was past it. But, for a 5k, water isn’t essential for me so I didn’t mind.

Unfortunately, the 5k race course is not well marked, nor are there volunteers on course. There are no marshals, and very few signs. The signs that do exist are small pink papers attached to the odd pole. I counted just 4 signs. The course was overall very poorly identified and marked. Two members of my team got lost on the course, adding on a quarter of a mile. There were no marshals to direct them and they were lucky to have found their way back to the course. The making of the course could really be improved and marshals to help ensure the safety of runners and help with directions would have been helpful.

At the finish, there was professional timing and a small crowd. Runners were treated to a wonderful buffet post-race.

The food is really a highlight of this race. The Women’s Auxillary creates an amazing spread of all home cooked food. There were several gluten free and vegetarian options, and, what can only be described as the best minestrone soup ever. Ever. I got the recipe from the nice woman who makes it (that’s her in the blue shirt on the right). It’s that good. They also have a huge selection of drinks, both hot and cold, bagels and donuts, ice cream, apples, and the best non-pasteurized apple cider ever. Seriously. The food is amazing. It’s worth running just to get the cider. Despite the number of runners exceeding what was anticipated, there was plenty of food and portions were large. Complimentary post-race sports massage was available and a blue grass/folk band entertained everyone in the town hall.

Overall, Monson is a decent little race. The RD could make some small, simple improvements that would dramatically improve the overall quality of the race. But, the race experience is saved by the great food, nice amenities, and good race environment.

A few notes on the half marathon – my spies reported that the course was the same as last year, VERY hilly, scenic, and shaded. The first 8 miles are uphill and the race has a somewhat unpleasant finish. The last 3.5 miles are run on Route 32 and there is no effort to  control traffic. The shoulder is very, very slim and non-existant in some areas. Runners who are up to the challenge of the hills should use caution in the final miles as cars are definitely present. Despite this, I like the half marathon course. It goes through some lovely countryside. And, what runner doesn’t like a challenge? My spies also reported that there were water stops every mile and a half or so (though some were unattended) and had nice, full cups of water. Chip timing was a huge improvement to the half marathon this year, and made times reliable. Overall, everyone who ran the half marathon reported that they had a good experience. And everyone enjoyed the post-race massage.

Connecticut Race Report: November 2012

It’s November in Connecticut and, as if we didn’t notice the colder temperatures and blustery weather, we got a Nor’easter last night that dumped inches of snow on the area. Yuck!

 

November is also the end of the busy fall racing season in Connecticut. Races will be few and far between until spring, but there are some options for the hardy few who want to get out there and race.

Monson Memorial Classic, Monson, MA, Sunday, November 11, 2012 – The Monson Memorial Classic features three events: a half marathon, a 5k, and a 2 mile fun walk. The half starts at noon, the 5k at 12:15 and the fun walk immediately after the 5k. The Monson Memorial Classic road race was started in 1996, shortly after the deaths of Kelly Waldron and Kathy Waldron Perry. These sisters died eight months apart from different types of cancer. This race is in their memory, and proceeds to Griffin’s Friends and Melanoma Education Foundation. I’ve run Monson before and it’s a fun, challenging race. Both the 5k and the half marathon have largely uphill courses. The first 7-8 miles of the half marathon have an overall uphill profile. But, the course is lovely, run on back roads and country lanes. Be forewarned that traffic is not blocked from the race course, including the final two miles of the half marathon and the finish line on Route 32. There will be cars on 32, and caution is merited. This year, there will be chip timing, free massage after the race, and prize money for individuals and teams. As an added bonus, this race has wonderful, home cooked food post-race. I thought the apple cider and chili were fantastic! I enjoy this race and recommend it if you’re looking for a challenge. Fees are $55 for the half marathon and $35 for the 5k. For reference, here’s the elevation profile for the half marathon.

Freedom RunFreedom Run, Hartford, CT, Sunday November 11, 2012 at 10:00 am – This popular 5k is a production of HYPE (a great organization) and the MetroHartford Alliance. It’s a measured 5k course that’s run on well maintained park trails. The course starts in front of The Riverfront Boathouse and runs north through the Riverside Park trail system. The course is a loop and ends back at the Boathouse. This event is run to honor the men and women who serve our country. Registration is $25 in advance, $30 race day. There is a discount for students and children. There will be professional timing and runners will get a t-shirt.
8K Cross Country Challenge8k Cross Country Challenge, West Hartford, CT, Saturday November 17, 2012 at 10:00 am – Sponsored by the Hartford Track Club, this trail race features a rolling course with gravel, trails, fields, and minor asphalt. It’s a unique distance, perfect for a PR. The race is also a bargain at $10 in advance and $15 race day. There will be few amenities, but expect a well organized event.
Finally, no race report would be complete without mention of the Manchester Road Race. This great race needs almost no introduction. It’s on Thanksgiving Day, in downtown Manchester, and is a wonderful, spirited race. Learn more about the race and its storied history on their website.

Race Recap: Cape Cod Marathon Half (Updated)

On October 27, 2012, my running friend, her half brother, and I ran the Novo Nordisk Cape Cod Marathon Half. No, I didn’t type that wrong. The race is really called the Marathon Half. The Cape Cod Marathon is in its 35th year and is a Falmouth, MA fall tradition. This year was only the second year for the half marathon option, and the race is named after its big brother. Thus, a marathon half. Race weekend events include the half marathon, marathon, marathon relay, and the Clam Chowdah Challenge (the half and full marathons on back to back days). When my running friend suggested the race, I was intrigued. It’s advertised as a mostly flat, scenic course, and the race winds through Falmouth and along Vineyard Sound. I hadn’t been to Cape Cod, so I signed up.

The registration process for this race was a bit strange. I completed my application, mailed it in, and assumed I was all set. A week or so later, I got an email that said that the race had filled and I was on the waiting list:

We received your half marathon registration form on 9/4/2012; however, as you may or may not know, the race filled on Saturday, August 11.  At this point, you have been placed on a waiting list, on which you are  # 42.  … Last year we had more than 100 runners withdraw and we have reserved some spaces for sponsors which may become available in September.  

I found this very strange. The website still listed spots open in the half marathon, but, sadly, I was wait listed. And, more than 100 people withdrew and were replaced – even more strange. My friend and I decided to wait it out. Sure enough, a few weeks later I got the email that I was selected for the race. Yay!

The night before the race, our little group headed to Cape Cod. We decided the best course of action was to pick up our packets the night before.

We arrived at the packet pick up location, “race headquarters”, to a group of runners milling around outside. Doors were opened promptly at 5pm and we all filed inside the school. Packet pick up was very well organized and completely efficient. We received instructions to come back the next morning for the race – there would be parking at the school.

On race morning, the weather was ideal. It was about 50 degrees, partly sunny, and breezy. Perfect running weather! We suited up and headed to the school to park. Parking was well organized and efficient. A number of volunteers were on hand to guide runners and organize the parking. The school was open and available for warm ups, bathrooms, and pre-race waiting. I was delighted to have a real bathroom to use before the race. The small luxuries of a real stall and soap and running water cannot be underestimated.

From the school, we headed across the playing fields and through an alley. We emerged on Main Street, directly across from the Town Hall Square and lined up. The start was organized chaos. It was a free for all start, no fancy corrals or pace groups here, but everyone seemed to have a good sense of where to line up and what to do.

The course was amazing! It is probably one of the more beautiful and scenic courses I’ve run. I didn’t take pictures along the route (I hadn’t been feeling well and didn’t want to add another complication), but you can see some amazing views from the race organizers here.

The first miles wind through neighborhoods and head out to the coast. Miles 2-3.5 or so are run along Vineyard Sound, on surface streets and past mansions, beach homes, historic camps, and marinas. At approximately mile 4, the course turns and moves onto the Shining Sea Bikeway. The paved bikeway is literally ocean front. There’s the bikeway, some beach scrub trees and bushes, and the sound. The views were amazing and the ocean area was humid and salty. The course continues on the bikeway until approximately mile 6 when it rejoins surface streets and begins the climb up to Nobska Lighthouse. The course is flat in the early miles, but at about 6.5 miles, it begins to climb and continues to feature rolling hills for the remainder of the course. The course turns near Falmouth Harbor (gorgeous views!) and then winds back along Surf Drive and towards town. The “in town” parts of the course are pure New England – a combination of Cape Cod style homes, little beach camps, and mansions, all with a seaside feel. Many miles of the course are directly seaside and the views are truly picturesque.

It is a well-designed course and was well marked on race day. Though the roads were open to traffic, there were helpful volunteers on each corner and the course markings were very clear. Mileage was posted and was accurate.

Despite my appreciation for the beauty and simplicity of the course, I was dissatisfied by one aspect of the race course. The water/fuel stations were not optimally placed and did not seem to be “approximately every 2.5 miles”, as advertised. The first water stop was about 2.5-3 miles in, then the second was at mile 4. There were no water stops on the bike trail. There was a water stop at about mile 7, then one at 9 and another at 10. It was warmer than I expected and I probably wasn’t properly hydrated, so more predictable water stops would have helped me. I didn’t drink enough at the stops at miles 3 and 4 to last through the bike course drought. In the future, I would plan to bring my own water.

The finish line was on Main Street, near the start line. The chute was well organized and festive. Announcers made sure runners were acknowledged and volunteers handed out the super fun medals.

At the finish line area, there were apples and cups for water. The full lunch spread – vegetable soup, rolls, salad, Ocean Spray Cranberry juice, and, inexplicably, clam chowder, was available at the school. There was plenty of food and it tasted delicious. My soup was super hot and handed to me by a smiling volunteer. I still can’t fathom someone eating clam chowder after running a race in warm weather, but some people at it and rumor had it that it was tasty.

Overall, I loved the Cape Cod Marathon Half. It was well organized, well-run, and had an absolutely beautiful course. I would definitely do it again – and recommend it to others.

Rachel and Running friend, post-race

Results can be found here.

Details for Rachel’s outfit, above: Lululemon Run: Swiftly top (it’s an older one, patterned with flowers, in flash), Lululemon capris, really old, I’m not even certain the name, but fit like the new Run: Track Time capris.

Update:

Someone (rightly) pointed out that I didn’t include the elevation chart as I usually do. Sorry about that. Here it is:

And, pictures from the race can be found here and are searchable by bib number.