This was NOT a half marathon that I planned on. I wanted to run this race but on its original (downhill) course. April 2020’s race got cancelled and the race was re-scheduled to August but on a new course. I chose at the time run the half marathon virtually and defer my registration to April 2021 (when I had hoped things would be normal again.)
Instead of racing returning to normal, half marathon after half marathon either cancelled or went virtual. So the RD organized a half marathon (Upstate Classic) in November on this new course. I decided to run that one. Though not downhill but hilly, I did enjoy the race. So instead of deferring to April 2022, I signed up (Sure, why not? to quote Wendy.)
The restrictions this race were the same as for last November’s Upstate Classic Half Marathon and it had to held on the same course (due to the Pandemic) since its COVID Safety Plan had already been approved.
So I signed up for the Druthers Helderberg to Hudson Half Marathon as my 50th Half Marathon (44th if you don’t count the 2020 virtuals) for several reasons:
- It was a ‘real” race.
- It was local and I could sleep in my own bed the night before.
- It was local so I would know a lot of the runners.
- Several of my running friends were doing it.
- With all the restrictions, I knew that it would be safe.
- I was familiar with the course as it was the same one as the one that I ran last November.
Half Marathon Training:
If you follow my posts, you also know that I am not strict about following a training plan. But I do run 3 miles several times during the work week. All my weekday runs are solo ones.
And on the weekends, I do my Long Run. Usually most of my miles are with one or more of my running friends.
Pre-Race Activities and Preparations:
The last day I ran was Wednesday so I took two days off from running. Of course, there was walking (I can’t just sit around).
Packet pick up was easy peasy. Just went to the race headquarters. There was along line of cars waiting to do a drive-by pick up but I just parked across the street. I gave them my bib # and someone masked gave me a bag with my bib and shirt. (NO WAITING!! LOL)
I did my usual carb loading of pizza the night before and tried to figure out what to wear. It was colder than I would have liked but there was no rain or snow so I was a happy camper. I hate being overdressed (and was tempted to even wear a skirt and short sleeved shirt) But I reluctantly added another shirt and capris plus my DIY arm sleeves and gloves. Last week, my new Brooks running shoes gave me blisters (could have been the socks?) but I decided not to take a chance and wore my older Topos ones (from my October half) and taped my blisters.
My biggest dilemma was what to do about water. I hate to carry my water bottle but there would be no cups of water provided on the course, only table to fill up your own bottle.
In the end, I decided on a small water bottle. At the last minute, I also grabbed a paper cup, flattened it and put that in my pocket. (I used it last time and it worked great.)
I also knew that I would be cold waiting to start and cold after. Usually there is bag check but now with COVID, there is none so I decided to leave a bag somewhere with old stuff and if it got taken so what? It would have been throwaways, anyway.
I woke up early and ate my race breakfast of oatmeal and coffee. My start time was 8:18 and I had to be in my corral by 8:14 am. I left my house around 6:30 am and tried decide what my race plan would be on the 30 minute drive over.
So the plan???
HM PR – 2:06:52
Upstate Classic HM – 2:23:21
Last HM – 2:35:58
Druthers H2H HM – Just finish. No time goal!! (prediction – 2:30:00)
A loop starting and ending in the same location.
and not flat… at all:
My last real half marathon was in Florida in February. The course was flat but it was extremely humid and hot. So with the hills, the conditions would probably equal out.
Although this was a “real” race, there were many changes from a half (organized by this company) that was held in April of 2019:
I understood all the restrictions and I am grateful for the opportunity to race. I was not worried about catching COVID. Besides I had both of my vaccines.
My last concern was my damn foot. Bunion, neuroma, hammer toe…. I’ve had pain on and off for more than a year. It’s much better than it had been back late 2019, early 2020 but it still hurts from time to time. Sometimes a lot, sometimes just a little. You never know and I know there are much worse things to worry about so I run. I walk, I hike.
Anyway, here’s how the race went:
I used my GPS to get to the race location, Altamont Fairgrounds. Last time, I went in the opposite entrance. This time I went the correct way but still entered in a different entrance than the directions. As a result, I did not have to wait in any line.
The parking lot was huge and MUDDY. I parked and texted my running friends Sherry and Judy. They were running late so I just waited in my car to stay warm.
Sherry arrived first and we waited together and took pix.
There were 11 waves. I was in wave 7 and Sherry and Judy in waves 10 & 11. The first wave started at 8:00 and before I knew it was time for me to enter my corral. I left my bag near the food area and put on gloves and DIY arm warmers (Mistake since they were NOT necessary.)
Masks were required while waiting to start, in the start corral and after crossing the finish line. Since it was chilly, as you can see above and below, I opted for a gaiter (much easier to pull up and down when someone got close during the race.) Groups of 8 started every few seconds. Things happened like clockwork.
The only problem was the mud. I mean puddles of mud. My shoes and socks were soaked even before I started the race.
I did wear my Garmin watch this time but I was debating whether or not to use it. I hate the pressure of seeing my time and splits. But I like having stats when the race is over so I decided to use it (and just not look at it during the race.)
The mud continued for a while so at least that slowed me down.
Normally in a half marathon, I would run and then only walk at the water stops Usually they are every 2 miles and every mile toward the end. But at this race, the first water stop was not until around mile 3.2. I would have to try not to walk until then.
I started out slowly but probably not slow enough. Around mile 2, it already started to get hard…hills. Not as bad as they would get later. Now they were just rolling ones. I felt pretty good and actually ran up the hills (at least at the beginning.)
I was familiar with this course but obviously since we were running on roads, there were cars. You were supposed to run on the shoulder but it was slanted and I found it awkward. So I ran toward the middle of the road until a car came by. I was more comfortable that way. But the negative was not running the tangents. 😦
Miles 3- 6.2:
I stopped at the first water stop and a volunteer filled up my paper cup. Best idea ever. I used that same cup the whole race. I wasn’t hungry yet so I waited to eat my GU. I did drop off my arm sleeves and gloves. The sun had come out. I could have stayed with my original outfit (one shirt and skirt.) But later, it did get windy so I never felt that over-heated.
Around mile 4, we passed by Indian Ladder Farms and the smell of fresh cider donuts filled the air.
The rolling hills continued. Believe it or not, my expected foot pain had not started yet but my lower backache was consistent from beginning to end. It’s always something. I tried to pay attention to my form but it may have been that I was wearing OLD worn shoes.
The hills ceased to roll and started to become steep hills. Those type of hills where it was even hard to walk up them. So walk I did but trying to pick up the pace on the downhill.
Just as I was approaching one hill, a spectator handed me some clementine slices. A life-saver since at that point I had not eaten my GU and was way overdue for some fuel.
The second water stop was at mile 6.2. I re-filled my water cup and ate my GU. I forgot to mention that I was wearing a newly purchased skirt. It was a smaller size than I normally wear but it had no drawstring so it was loose the whole race. But the biggest problem was that the pocket on this older skirt was narrow and it took me forever to squeeze my cup in it each time I removed it.
The big hills seems to be more frequent the second half of the race. As a result, my pace increased. No surprise and I was totally ok with walking when needed.
Miles 8.75 – 11.1
There was another water stop around mile 8.75. I again stopped and refilled my cup. I also ate my 2nd Gu even though I really wasn’t hungry.
My lower back still ached and now my foot was starting to get painful. There wasn’t much I could do about it. So I just focused on the scenery which was very pretty (farms, mountain views, etc.), put one foot in front of the other and grimaced up each hill (along with everyone else lol).
The course marshals were very enthusiastic. There were some families camped out in their driveways. But for the most part, we were running on the roads in the country… not a lot of places for spectators. However, there were many more than the last time I ran this course. I recognized quite a few and they cheered me on by name.
Two of my running friends were volunteering around mile 9. That was a great mental boost, as well.
I am always glad when I get the mile 10 sign. Only a 5k from the end…. but as you know, this can be grueling and the hardest part of the race (I’m happy to say that this race followed suit.)
More hills. They never seemed to end. And one last water stop at mile 11.1. I just wanted to finish so I skipped it. So I never ate my last GU either.
Finally when the hills seemed to flatten, we ran on a road with a lot of traffic. It was annoying since you had make sure you ran on the uneven slanted shoulder (as opposed to the middle which I preferred.)
Mile 13 seemed like a full marathon. My legs just died. To make matters worse, there was one hill after another. I walked most of this mile so that I could at least sprint across the finish line and not embarrass myself.
Finally we approached the entrance to the fair grounds. An announcer announced “If you can hear me, you’re almost there! But the mud is even worse than when you started!”
And he was right. It made it impossible to run fast since the mud was very slippery. I did my best and was glad to not land on my butt and to cross with a smile (I think.)
I did check my watch and was pleased to see that I had finished under 2 1/2 hours (but then I forgot to turn it off. Strava had me running a 19 mile race at a 7 min pace lol)
A volunteer handed me a medal (in plastic) and I headed off to find my bag in order to put on my jacket (now sweaty and getting chilled!)
I got my food (a boxed lunch) and sat with some friends waiting for Sherry and Judy to finish.
Sherry finished first and though she started after me, we both had almost the exact race time. That makes sense since we did all our long training runs together.
Then both Judy and another friend, Barbara, finished. Judy was running to raise money for Leukemia (in memory of her daughter) and raised $20,000!! Barbara had just completed her FIRST half marathon. Both were super happy.
Additional Race Reflections:
It may seem that my recap above had a lot of complaints. But on the whole, the race was a really good experience. I have zero regrets in running it. The race was so well organized. It was great to see running friends again! Sure, it was a challenge. Aren’t all hard things?
My race pace was nothing to write home about but it was a better than I expected. I didn’t train hard. I did zero speed drills or hill work. That’s not what my running is about right now. I run to exercise, socialize with friends and get outdoors.
Besides, my finish time for this race was 13 minutes faster than my last FLAT half marathon and a few seconds faster than the one on this SAME course.
Though I am no longer expecting results even close to a PR but I would love to struggle less in future half marathons and have more even or negative split times. (Does that mean I have to train? lol)
Back to the race itself:
- A Live Race!!!
- Connecting with local runners.
- Felt safe with the provided restrictions.
- Decent post race food. (box lunch of pre-ordered sandwich, chips, apple, brownie)
- Well organized.
- Lots of pre-race information.
- Easy packet pick up.
- Ample parking.
- Enthusiastic volunteers.
- Running it with friends
- Live tracking for others to follow runners and runners to get immediate results.
- Free photos.
- Decent weather.
- Lots of compliments on my outfit (someone even said that I was the best dressed runner in the race 🙂 )
- A live race!!!
- Hilly Course.
- MUD at the start and finish.
- No water provided (unless you carried your own bottle).
- Many restrictions (though necessary due to Covid-19).
- Not trained for hills or speed (my fault).
- My sore foot (expected)
- My achy lower back 😦
- Nothing really
The tale of two races – miles 1-6.5 and miles 6.5-13.1:
Would I recommend this race?
Sure. But I prefer the real (downhill) course without COVID restrictions – 2022??
2020 was a crazy year. Two real half marathons, six virtual half marathons and then one “pandemic” half marathon. Not how I planned it.
Of course, now 2021 has continued the way 2020 ended.
With all the pandemic restrictions, it was not the race that I would have planned to run but I did it.
Now I am really anxious to run a one without any annoying restrictions!! And fewer hills!
I’m also linking up here:
Happy Running! Have run a real race yet? If so, how did go? Are you planning to run one? Please share.