My fifth and final half marathon for 2021.
I signed up for the Upstate Classic Half Marathon for several reasons:
- I had run the course twice before so I was familiar with the hills.
- 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.
- I had run a half in September and October so I was sorta already trained.
Half Marathon Training:
If you follow my posts, you also know that I am not strict about following a training plan. For 2020, I had the ambitious goal of running 12 Half Marathons – one each month. The pandemic wrecked those plans. For 2021, it was just race whatever half marathons were available. As a result, I was lucky to have already run FOUR this year.
The difference in the training cycle for the race this year was that I didn’t have to run all my long runs solo.
Pre-Race Activities and Preparations:
I did some short runs during the week prior to the race: Tues, Wed, Friday:
Packet pick up was easy peasy. I just went to the race headquarters on Friday, drove in, gave them my bib # and they handed me a hoodie and a bib. All was done outdoors.
I skipped my long run on Saturday and walked with friends and then after, I met those who ran for brunch.
My usual carb loading dinner was pizza, of course and then I tried to figure out what to wear. It was forecast to be cold and cloudy. Similar to the weather in my last race but we would be at a higher altitude. I hate being overdressed (and was tempted to even wear a skirt) but I reluctantly chose a beanie, 2 long sleeved shirts, DIY arm sleeves, capris/skirt, compression calf sleeves and gloves.
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 grabbed a paper cup, flattened it and put that in my pocket, as I have done in other post-COVID races.
I woke up early and looked outside and it was SNOWING!! It did not stick but I re-thought the race outfit and switched from a skirt and compression socks to tights (under a skirt).
I had my usual pre-race breakfast of oatmeal and coffee. The race didn’t start until 8:30 am but I was ready so I left at 7am. I thought about my race plan on the ride …
So what was the plan???
- HM PR – 2:06:52 – no way!
- Last HM – 2:16:05 – doubtful!
- H2H April 2021 – 2:22:51 (same course)
- Upstate Classic Nov. 2020 – 2:23:37 (same course but no watch)
Just finish. No time goal!! But I would love to have improved my time on this course (so under 2:22:51).
A loop starting and ending in the same location.
and not flat… at all:
I got there an hour early and parked in a muddy parking lot and then sat in my car. It was in the low 30’s and I wanted to stay warm until the last moment especially since there was no bag check.
Around 8am, I dragged myself out of my warm car toward the race start.
Brrrrr! I shivered but I got to connect with many runners that I knew. I was especially glad to see Alyssa whom I used run and race with all the time.
There was no staggered starts this time. They called runners to the start line by pace. We waited until they said “Everyone else” since it was chip timed anyway.
Anyway, here’s how the race went:
(Some pictures are from a previous race since the course was identical.)
I started running with Alyssa so we could chat and catch up on things. I was familiar with this course since this was my 3rd time 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. 😦
I lost Alyssa (whose asthma was bothering her) but continued to run with some other friends. So far the hills weren’t too bad. I could even run up them.
Miles 3- 6.2:
I skipped the first water stop. I had a paper cup in my pocket but it was a pain to get it out and I wasn’t hungry or thirsty yet.
Around mile 4, we passed by Indian Ladder Farms and the smell of fresh cider donuts filled the air.
I started to get hungry about that time and ate a GU but boy was I wishing I had some water.
The rolling hills continued.
The hills ceased to roll and started to become steep hills. Those type of hills where it was even hard to walk up them. But walk I did and trying to pick up the pace on the downhill.
As soon as the big hills started, I lost my friends. And they continued to get farther and farther ahead.
I kept repeating to myself “Run your own race.” and “One foot in front of the other.”
Every now and then I would glance at my watch. My pace was by no means fast but considering all the walking, it was not as bad as I feared.
The second water stop was around the 10k point and this time, I did stop and had my paper cup filled.
The big hills seems to more frequent the second half of the race.
Miles 8.75 – 11.1
It think there was another water stop around mile 8.75. I’m sure that I stopped and refilled my cup. I also ate another GU. I never really felt hungry during the race but knew I should fuel.
The race continued the same way. The amazing thing was that my feet did not hurt. (I had decided for the first time not to tape them and to risk getting blisters.) My quads were getting achy from all the hills. It’s always something. So I focused on the scenery which was very pretty…farms, mountain views, etc.
The course marshals were very enthusiastic. I knew many of them. There were some families camped out in their driveways. But for the most part, we were running on the roads in the country… no place for spectators.
But surprisingly around mile 10.5, there was table of guys giving out bottles of water and alcohol. It was one of our boating friends. He asked me if I was coming back around. I yelled “Hell no!” (This race had a marathon too…two loops of this insanely hilly course.)
More hills. They never seemed to end. And one last water stop. I just wanted to finish but I decided to fill my cup one last time.
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 sprint across the finish line and not embarrass myself.
We were also running in a more trafficked area. It was annoying to keep moving over.
But eventually we turned into the fair grounds And like that I was done.
I sprinted through the finish line and RD who was the announcer said a lot of cool things about me as I crossed the finish line.
Post Race Activities:
I immediately got my food – a boxed lunch but there was also a table of refreshments that looked more appealing – pastries, quiche, bread, etc.
That I went to see my results and found out that I came in 2nd in my age group.
Alyssa had also finished so we hung out at a picnic table and ate. The sun had come out and it was a perfect Fall weather day.
Additional Race Reflections:
It seems that my recap above was a bunch of complaints. But on the whole, the race was a really good experience. I have zero regrets in running it. And if you never run on hills, they are HARD. I walked them so I wouldn’t get injured. And I felt fine after the race.
In fact, my time was a lot better than I expected. In fact it was course PR – more than 3 minutes faster than in April on the same course.
It gives me hope that I could improve upon it on a flatter course. (It was more than 3 minutes slower than my last half marathon. lol)
- A Live Race!!!
- Connecting with local runners.
- Felt safe with the provided restrictions.
- Decent post race food. (box lunch of pre-ordered sandwich, apple, brownie) and a table of other refreshments (quiche, bead, pastries)
- Well organized.
- Lots of pre-race information
- Easy packet pick up
- Ample parking
- Enthusiastic volunteers (even with the cold weather)
- Live tracking for others to follow runners and runners to get immediate results
- Free photos
- A live race!!!
- Hilly Course.
- No water provided (unless you carried your own bottle).
- Most of my running group did not participate.
- Not trained for hills or racing (my fault).
- Traffic during the last mile or so.
- Nothing really
Would I recommend this race?
Sure. Pretty scenery and the perks mentioned above. But TRAIN ON HILLS before you run it!!
A Thanksgiving 10K
A fun local 5k.
Then in February, I will be running a half marathon in Florida.
Happy Running! Run any big races in 2021? How did it go? Did you set and meet your goals? Any planned for 2022? Please share.