Steel Rail Half Marathon Race Recap


Steel Rail Races Race Reviews | Lanesborough, Massachusetts

May 22, 2022

I signed up for this Half Marathon (my 59th) for several reasons:

  • It was local and I could sleep in my own bed the night before.
  • It was a flat course.
  • It is scenic (lakes, rivers and mountain views)
  • I had run a similar course twice (in 2016 & 2017).
  • It was my half marathon PR both times I ran it.
  • It was cancelled in 2020 and I had to run it virtually.

Half Marathon Training:

If you read my blog, you know that I always get my weekday short runs done.

However, this training cycle included ZERO real long runs due to lots of races and a vacation in Florida.

The “Plan” called for weekend runs of 10, 11, 12, and then 8 miles..

Yes, I got some of those weekend miles on the legs.

After the downhill half marathon on April 16, I ran a 5 mile race, a 5k, 5.8 miles up a mountain and another 5k.

I had lots of fun.  But was I trained for this half marathon???

Nevertheless, I was excited to run the race. I knew that I didn’t deserve to get a PR and I was hoping that I wouldn’t be too disappointed with a way slower performance than in 2017.

Pre-Race Activities and Preparations:

My Taper week was an exhausting one…

I returned from my trip on Monday.  Vacations are tiring!! I felt like skipping all my runs but of course, I did not. Tuesday and Wednesday’s included slow running and walking…

On Thursday, I ran a 3.5 evening race.

Then the temperatures started rising and rising.

90s and it was getting to look as scary as Florida.  But I had to run 13.1 miles not 3.1.

And the race was to start at 9:30 AM not 7:30 AM!!! Oy!

The only change to the race was that at the water stops every two miles, there would now be ICE (at least that was what they said.)

I had found this summary and posted it on my blog the last time I ran this race. I assumed that nothing had changed since.

The course is wonderful. It runs point-to-point from Lanesborough to Adams. It starts with two loops around the Berkshire Mall … then goes onto the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail for ten miles. The scenery is lovely. .. you can enjoy views of Mt. Greylock, lakes, and woods. And by the time you’re really hurting at mile ten, the trail starts gently sloping downhill, for real. If you want a half marathon PR, this is the course

And the course map:

And the map of the elevation:

downhill at the end…sweet!

Guess what?

The course changed this year. Some good changes and some not.

  • Packet pick-up and parking: the Visitor’s Center in Adams, MA instead of Berkshire Mall in Lanesborough, MA
  • Race start: On the Ashuwillticook Bike Path in Adams, MA (instead of the Mall)
  • No loops of the mall to start the race. but a .6 or .5 mile walk to the start instead
  • No change to bag check at the start (pick-up at the finish) and shuttle back from the finish to the start.
  • Finish line: Ashuwillticook Rail Trail in Pittsfield, MA
  • After Party and awards ceremony – John’s Ace Hardware in Pittsfield, MA
  • Marathon and 8k start: Ashuwillticook Rail Trail in Pittsfield, MA – they are both a loop.

In other words, this year’s half marathon course started where the previous one ended.  Not running loops of the mall parking lot was good but no downhill finish and the .6 or .5 mile walk to the start did not make me happy.

But, it is what it is.

New course map:

according to my Garmin… the path going toward Pittsfield was slightly uphill the whole way (and it felt it!!)

I decided against driving to MA. to get my bib the day before the race and instead I went to the gym, met my running friends for brunch and spent the rest of the day doing errands and gardening.  Not very restful but it was a great feeling to be almost catch up after a vacation.

It was also my hubby’s birthday and Friday night, we went out to dinner to celebrate both our birthdays.  So I carb loaded a day early (and could drink.)

Race Day:

So 6:00 am came early on Sunday morning. Wouldn’t it be nice to sleep in on a weekend??

As I mentioned above, the Half marathon was scheduled to start at 9:30 am. I would normally have been happy with the late start but NOT with the predicted HOT temps.

According to Google, it would take me about 1h15 to drive there.  So I left my house at 7:00 am.

My GPS took me me on mostly back roads. It was a pretty drive and I got there plenty early.  Bib pick-up was at the Adams Visitor Center and there was plenty of parking there.

The other two races (Marathon and 8K) started in Pittsfield (where the half finished). The Marathon started at 8:30 and the 8k at 10:00).

Things didn’t start out too well. They had no record that I  had registered. So no bib # was assigned to me.

I showed them my confirmation e-mail and so they gave me someone else’s bib who was not going to run the race.  They said that they would change it in the computer (which I doubted and I was right.)

nice swag = Brooks women’s tech shirt, water bottle, bag and cap.

Since the race ended in Pittsfield, MA, you could check a bag which would be available at the finish line.  Very convenient. I packed flip flops, a dry shirt and a towel in it.

What to wear?? It was going to be so warm that I decided to skip the compression calf sleeves and even left my cap behind (probably not a great idea.)

smiling BEFORE the race

For the new race start, you could either walk .6 miles on the rail trail or wait until 9am, take a bus and then walk .5 miles. Either way, you had to walk.

It was early so I decided to walk to the start.

As you can see, the trail was scenic but NO SHADE!!

I didn’t see anyone that I knew but instantly made some new friends.  The runners were so friendly.

We chatted.  There were two topics: the lack of porta-potties here and the HEAT!! The porta-potties were back at the Visitor’s Center (.6 miles away).

sweating before even beginning – 92% humidity!!

Since I had eaten breakfast over two hours ago, I was hungry so I ate a Honey Stinger waffle.  Eventually they did bring us bottles of water.  But there were no trash cans?!

Soon it was time to head to the start line.

The race is a heat-induced blur but here’s how I remember it:

Miles 1-3:

I didn’t start near the front. I wasn’t sure (and still am not) if it was gun timed or chip timed but I didn’t care.  I didn’t want to finish the race in an ambulance (One runner died and 16 were hospitalized after the Brooklyn Half Marathon the day before.)

I planned to walk at least once each mile. That changed to every .5 miles to every.25 miles to whenever it felt too hot.  In other words, I walked A LOT!!

Pics from The Berkshire Eagle:

I bumped into a few runners that were friends of a friend.  They were going to walk most of it.  They brought a friend who drove to the finish and stopped to cheer at various points of the course.  It was nice to hear her yell to me: “Go Albany!”

Here’s some pics she posted:

the only shade??

The trail was beautiful.  River at first on one side, then also a lake on the other side.  Then eventually, the river changed sides. I wish I could have gotten out my phone from my race belt more easily so I could have taken some photos.

pic from the website (and the previous course)

The first few miles had zero shade. I don’t think I made it one mile before I had to walk. But everyone else around me was taking walk breaks too.

The first water stop was around 1.3 miles (instead of mile 2).  I was thinking that due to the heat, they added extra water stops.  Nope.  They were still every two miles and no ICE at the first few.

Miles 4-6:

At the 2nd water stop, I ate my Gu and had more water. I think at this one, they started to add Gu Endurance in addition to water.  I think I tried it and it tasted awful.

And so I continued my slog. I walked when it got too unbearable.  There were spots where the path was shady but for short spurts.  However it was a very pretty trail.  There were even waterfalls.

pic from FB

We continued on the same trail and I just focused on the scenery.

Another water stop around mile 5.3.  This time I had water AND Gu.  They changed to a lemon-lime flavor and it wasn’t too bad.

Around mile 6, the leader of the marathon passed me.  He was flying.  The marathoners had to turn around at mile 13 and repeat the course (ugh!)

Miles 7-9:

Around mile 7, I saw a friend who was running the marathon. We high-fived each other.  I couldn’t imagine running 26.2 miles in this heat!

pic from FB

I hate to be only be a Debbie Downer so I will add that NOTHING hurt! Not my lower back, not even my feet.

I wasn’t even tired, just HOT! And I wanted to finish safely.

Mile 7.5 was memorable. Porta-potties (though I didn’t need one) and ICE!!  I ate my 2nd GU, drank some Gu Endurance and put ice down the front and back of my shirt.

The next two water stops had ICE too!!!

I also continued drinking Gu Endurance (It may have saved me…)

Miles 10-12

And I kept wondering: “Should walk the rest of the race?”

Nope.

Too hot to stay in this race any longer than I had too.  I ate my last Gu around mile 11.5 and just ran and walked until the end.

pic from  FB

Mile 13- 13.16:

not sure when this was taken?? At least I was running. lol.

And I finished.  I crossed at 1:32:XX and so glad to feel fine… just a little nauseous and dizzy but STANDING!!

8k finishers

Post Race Activities:

I got my medal, some water, and a bag of snacks.  I asked where bag check was.  The bags were on the bus at a shopping center. Not far but too far after running 13.1 miles. Eventually they did bring the bags to the nearby awards table.

yes, that’s why I always wear a cap… out of control hair

I’m not a beer drinker but I headed anyway to get my free beer. It was so refreshing.

With our food ticket, we could get anything that cost $3 for free.  I chose a hot dog. And it was yummy!

I wandered around. There was music, food, games, raffles… but I didn’t bring any money.

Awards were supposed to be given out at 2:30 pm but they moved them up to 1pm so I decided to hang around.

When they announced the winner in my age group, I realized that they didn’t add my name to the computer. I told them and they gave me the award ($10 gift card to their running store). I live too far away but it was the principle, right?

Eventually I headed toward the bus and rode (13 miles) back to my car.

My last stop before heading home was to treat myself to a chocolate milkshake (soooo good!)

Additional Race Reflections:

The Good:

  • Close enough to be able to sleep in my own bed the night before.
  • Organized packet pick-up.
  • Lots of parking and easy to locate.
  • Bag check shuttle to the finish,
  • Enthusiastic volunteers and crowd support.
  • Accurate mile markers.
  • Scenic course especially with the mountain and water views.
  • Flatish course!!
  • Shuttle back to the start after the race.
  • Gender-specific shirts
  • Nice swag
  • Several distance options – half marathon, full marathon and 8k
  • Decent selection of refreshments (free beer & $3 food coupon)
  • Gift card as an age group award
  • No major injuries.
  • GU Endurance in addition to water every 2 miles
  • Ice at some of the water stops

The Bad:

  • Late start
  • Computer not recording my registration
  • Not enough water stops  (with the increased temps and humidity)
  • Walk to the start
  • No port-potties at the start and along the course
  • 10 year age groups and only first place announced

The Ugly:

  • HEAT!!

Would I recommend this race?

Yes.

I don’t usually repeat half marathons but I did this time and I may run this one again.

Final Stats:

I’m 461

Splits:

there was NO consistent running obviously.

Next Up:

a ten mile race a week later

and then some local shorter races.

No Half Marathons until September and then one again in October and in November.

Happy Running!  Have you run the same half marathon more than once? Do you factor the weather into your goals?  Have you run a race with these temps? Please share.

 

 

 

 

 


Since it is Tuesday, I am joining the link-up organized by Zenaida and Kim (Kooky Runner).


I’m linking up also with this link-up:

with co-hosts Coach Debbie RunsRunning on HappyConfessions of a Mother RunnerMile by MileRuns with Pugs, and Laura Norris

23 thoughts on “Steel Rail Half Marathon Race Recap

  1. Oh wow, Darlene, so many challenges!
    First, they change the course, then your name isn’t in the system and then the HEAT!
    But you endured! And even won in your age group! Well done.
    The course is beautiful. Let’s hope the weather is cooler when you do it next year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • the 10 miler was yesterday and actually it felt worse… still HOT and no shade but it was fun because I knew many of the runners.

      Like

    • I think it happens when they change a race course. Hopefully they make adjustments next year. Though I may choose a different one… we’ll see.

      Like

  2. Omg, you had Florida weather. But we would never start a race at 9:30! It must have been brutal- I feel especially bad for the marathoners. In spite of all the difficulties, you finished, and your splits are actually pretty good! You were run/walking at a pace that a lot of people run at. It sounds like a good experience overall. Can’t wait to hear about the next one!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I laugh. The next one wasn’t much better. It was sunny and warm. But at least it was more local and ran with friends.

      Like

  3. This race was during the brutal heat wave the whole east coast was having- it was awful! I’ve only run the same half marathon twice- my very first half marathon in 2000 which I ran again the following year. I definitely take weather into account for races and know my times will be slower when it’s hot and especially if it’s humid as well. I’ve run some hot ones- Chicago, Wisconsin, Nevada, and even Maine come to mind, all of which were during the summer months.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh yes, I have run quite a few really hot races. Sometimes it wasn’t what was forecast, either, and that makes it even tougher.

    Vegas is the only half I “ran” twice (because the second time I walked it with a friend).

    I know my time would’ve been slower given the conditions (and lack of training for anything for a long, long time).

    Like

      • A late start on a hot day is never a good thing. 😦

        Good thing I didn’t sign up for Freihofers — I might be back then, but I have to go to my moms this week (again!) and it’s a very stressful situation — although her health is good.

        Like

  5. Congrats on another half! That heat sounds really tough! Ive done the Baltimore half a bunch of times and a few yeas ago they changed the end of the course. It used to be a nice downhill finish but instead there were more hills. It was much more challenging!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Congrats on your perseverance and getting to the finish line! You definitely had a tough morning with the heat! I wonder why they had such a late start? I have a lot of nearby races that I run every year. We just don’t have a lot to choose from, especially for longer distances. But, I like these particular races, so it’s all good. I have my 14th DAM to DSM (formerly Dam to Dam) happening on Saturday!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. OMG. That sounds awful! Even in winter, a 9:30 half marathon start would be a nonstarter. I just can’t imagine.

    The beer and hot dog at the end sound fabulous, but not sure it makes up for the heat and backwards course and lack of registration. Ugh.

    Liked by 1 person

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