Catamount Half Marathon: Race Recap

Here it is, the long-awaited recap for my first half marathon!

What/Where/When:  The inaugural Catamount Half Marathon (and 5k)  in Brattleboro, VT on Sunday, June 29, 2014.

About:  A new Vermont half marathon that crosses the historic Rice Farm Bridge and the Dummerston Covered Bridge.  6 water stops, porta-potties, “top-notch make-your-own goodie bags” and pastries, fruit, water and gatorade at the finish.  Free technical t-shirt for half marathoners and medal to half marathon finishers.  Pint glasses to overall and age group winners.

Pre-Race

I got up early to have coffee and a bagel with peanut butter.  About halfway through my bagel, I came to a sudden and startling realization:  I don’t really like peanut butter.  I’ve been eating it because it’s good for me and easy, but this morning it actually made me gag and I couldn’t finish my bagel.  Time to try sunflower seed butter, I guess…  The drive to Brattleboro from my parents’ place took about 40 minutes.  Ben and I arrived at the starting line at about 8:15 (race start was 9am), which was perfect.  There were 5 porta-potties at the start, and when we arrived, no line.  I hit them up right away, and I’m glad I did because about 10 minutes later the lines were really long.  The race start was actually delayed by about 5 minutes because we had to wait for everyone to use the potties!  Speeches, announcements, etc, and we were off!

Ready to run!

Ready to run!

During the Race

Miles 1-5 I felt pretty good.  I started out at the back of the pack with a really conservative pace, and ran through the first 2 water stops (I think miles 1.5 and 3), but after that, walked them since I apparently can’t run and drink from a Dixie cup without choking.  I was enjoying my run and the scenery, but I was definitely feeling the heat, and starting to get a little concerned about the lack of shade–80% of the course was along the side of Route 30 with almost zero shade, and running on asphalt, so it was pretty rough.  I felt mostly fine though.  At mile 5, we turned off the highway, crossed the Rice Farm bridge, and got to run on some rolling dirt road hills.

LOTS of highway, no shade

LOTS of highway, no shade

Miles 5-7.  Finally some shade!  It was nice to be away from cars and asphalt and out of the sun.  I started feeling really excited, like, holy crap, I’m really doing this!  I’m actually going to finish a half marathon!  I feel great!  I’m making good time.  This is great!  Unfortunately, this was the last time I felt happy or good…

Blurry action shot.  I followed these two for a while, but passed them during mile 8 and didn't see them again.

Blurry action shot. I followed these two for a while, but passed them during mile 8 and didn’t see them again.

Miles 7-8.  Across the Dummerston Covered Bridge and back onto Route 30.  Sun beating down.  Sun reflecting off the asphalt.  Hot, hot, hot.  It was actually kind of cruel irony that we were running alongside the West River.  It looked so cool and inviting, but there was no way to get to it without risking personal injury.  At this point I was still running,  but really starting to feel the effects of the heat and sun.

Miles 8-12.  It was brutally hot, and I finally had to start alternate walking with running.  My parents drove by around mile 10 and screamed my name, which kept me going for a bit, but not long.  I simply couldn’t push anymore.  I wasn’t dehydrated, and I wasn’t sick, I just felt hot and sluggish.  I could feel enormous blisters squishing around inside my shoes with every step.  I kept telling myself, “Just run to that tree, and then walk this little shady bit.  Then run to the next cone, then walk to that street sign.”  I was probably running 1/8 mile, then walking 1/4 mile–it was that bad.  And as slow as I was going, I actually passed at least 6 people during these miles.  Lots of people were struggling with the head and humidity.

I can’t tell you how many times I thought about stopping.  About having someone pick me up.  About risking life and limb to jump over the guardrail, tumble down the embankment, and sit in the river for an hour.  But somehow, I kept moving.  I started singing motivational songs to myself (oh yeah, I forgot my headphones so I didn’t have any music) and somehow, the distance between me and the finish kept decreasing.

Miles 12-end.  The final water stop about 1.5 miles from the end was so, so welcome.  The volunteers were incredible–kind, encouraging, and sympathetic.  They let me refill my bottles with water and cheered me on my way.  The final cruelty was that the finish line was up a small, but steep hill.  I walked about halfway up, and then ran the final 1/4 mile.  Ben was waiting a few hundred feet before the finish line, and I pasted a smile on my face so he could take a picture.  I yelled “Holy hell!” as I ran by, and he yelled back “You got this!”  My mom was waiting at the finish line with my Tigger and a giant sign that said “Bouncy Bouncy Rachel!” and had all kinds of encouragements all over it, and Dad was waiting to snap a photo.  They were both screaming their heads off, which helped me to smile and speed up to cross the finish line.

Best picture ever--can you spot my mama?

Best picture ever–can you spot my mama?

Post Race

  • Official Time:  2:41:13
  • 20th of 22 in my age group
  • Overall 146 out of 167 half marathoners

I felt like absolute hell.  I could hardly talk or walk.  Volunteers handed me my medal and a bottle of water, and I tried to walk a few laps, but ended up sitting down almost immediately–my legs just didn’t want to work anymore.  I dumped a bottle of water on my head and tried to stretch, but could barely focus on even doing that.  It was crazy how much my body just shut down.  I felt better after sitting for a few minutes and we snapped some pictures.  I perused the food tent, but all the gatorade was gone, and honestly, the thought of eating bagels with nutella and cupcakes just made me nauseous.  Also, the “top-notch” goodie bags were nothing but random samples of products that looked like somebody just donated because they didn’t know what to do with them–shave oil, body lotion, athlete’s foot powder, and granola.  Not exactly “top-notch” in my book, but whatever.

Me and Mama with her awesome sign 🙂

First ever race medal!

First ever race medal!

When I was able to walk again, my dad drove me down to the boat launch on the river and I just took my shoes off and sat in the water for a good 10 minutes.  It felt AMAZING.  Then we drove into town and had lunch at a place called Whetstone Station that’s right next to the river.  It was beautiful.  I had a burger and fries and a couple of beers and started to feel somewhat human again.  Unfortunately, my brain fog was still in effect, because I ended up leaving my bag of wet, dirty running clothes at the restaurant 😦  Thankfully, they held onto them, and my parents are going to send them to me.

When we got back to my parents’ house, my mom insisted I take a nap, and honestly, I’m not sure I could have done anything else at that point.  I zoned out but didn’t really sleep for about an hour, and then Ben and I drove the 2.5 hours home.  Our apartment was super hot and I was a zombie, so we ate buttered noodles for dinner and I passed out at 9:30 with the lights on while we watched Disney’s Robin Hood.  Party animal, right here.

Wrap Up

I can say without reservation that completing this race was the hardest thing I have ever done.  Ever.  Period.  Even though I was really well-hydrated, the heat was intense, and the lack of shade was punishing.  I will DEFINITELY NOT run this particular race again.  Running 10ish miles alongside a highway is no fun at the best of times, and on a day like Sunday, it straight up sucked.  It also sucked that they ran out of Gatorade.  But the volunteers were all wonderful, so there’s that.

Even though this was incredibly difficult, I’m still really glad I did it, and that I finished.  And even though I didn’t finish in the time I was hoping for, and even though I had to walk a lot, I am SO PROUD that I managed to finish.  It took everything I had to keep moving during those last 5 miles when all I wanted to do was stop.

For the rest of the summer, I’ll probably just try to maintain some of my base mileage, and maybe try another half in the fall, when temperatures are more reasonable.  I’m pretty sure I’ll be ready for a shiny new PR by then 🙂

So there you have it!  I’m officially able to claim the title of “Half Marathoner.”  Woohoo!

What’s the toughest race you’ve ever done?

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever gotten in your “swag bag.”

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33 thoughts on “Catamount Half Marathon: Race Recap

  1. Rachel says:

    Your experience sounds very similar to mine at the Bayshore half in May, except my pain in the last half and desire to stop came from other sources than the heat/humidity. I can definitely relate to the absolute hell of running the second half of a half marathon when you just want to stop though. I was doing the same sort of run/walk thing the last 5-6 miles. Anyway, I’m super happy that you finished!! I’m glad to hear this experience hasn’t put you off doing other half marathons in the future. It really is a great distance and I’m sure you will have a great race in more humane conditions. 🙂

  2. Jason says:

    Bummer about the heat/gatorade/swag… but congrats on the medal!!!

    Toughest race ever – definitely Pikes Peak – the last three miles took me almost two hours (probably because I kept sitting down on the ground LOL)

  3. runsaltrun says:

    YOU DID IT!!!!!!!! It sounds like a horrible course (I hate running in the heat like that!) and you got it done. I’m so proud of you. You kept going and you freaking did it. 🙂 So which one are you going to do next?? 😉

    • DarlinRae says:

      Thank you so much! I’m really, really happy! As for what’s next, there’s a leaf peeper half that happens in October, or maybe one that goes through an orchard in November. I’m also toying with Zooma on Cape Cod in September, but that’s a bit pricey for me. Decisions, decisions! 😉

  4. prairieprincessrunners says:

    Congrats Rae!!!!! I’m so proud of you! I’m also thrilled to hear that your rough first half experience isn’t going to keep you from trying another one.

    As a tip for drinking from Dixie cups, squeeze the cup so it sorta makes a spout on each side, then tip the spout into the corner of your mouth. My dad taught me that very valuable tip!

    Congrats again my friend!
    ~Lisa

  5. dgobs says:

    Badass!! Congratulations on finishing, and seriously… major props for pushing through those awful last miles to finish! Running a 5K on asphalt on a hot day is bad enough but most of a half marathon?? Yikes. Just think how easy it will feel when you run a race in cooler weather 🙂 And your mom is ADORABLE with that sign and Tigger – I love it!

    Bummer about the lame swag bag, especially as it was advertised “top-notch, make-your-own” (?!). I got one bag that was just a flyer for a local gym and one of those Quaker Chewy granola bars. The swag bag for the BAA 5K was a little random too – a bag of chips and a single Hawaiian sweet bread roll, along with some other really random things, like leftovers from their sponsors or something. At least your medal is cool!

    Rock on again for taking down a tough race!! 😀

    • DarlinRae says:

      Thank you!

      The medal is actually super cool–I wish I’d taken a closeup for the post. I may add one in later 🙂

      Having my parents and Ben there was so amazing–seriously their insane cheering was pretty much the only thing that could have made me smile at that point!

  6. txa1265 says:

    AWESOME! AWESOME! AWESOME! AWESOME! AWESOME! AWESOME! AWESOME! AWESOME! AWESOME! AWESOME!

    You did it! So excited for you … you are an official half-marathoner! And I totally get how the heat would be so hard – one of my hardest races was the Wineglass Marathon last fall where it is usually ~50F, but was 88F, sunny and super-humid. I was chasing hydrating (and losing) the whole time! So I know what you’re saying!

    My hardest was MY first half – because I was still in weight loss mode, didn’t fuel properly, only used water rather than gatorade at water stations, only did one Gu pack … and was an absolute wreck by the end! haha

    Woohoo – congrats again 🙂

    • DarlinRae says:

      Thank you thank you! It’s such a wonderful to have finished what I set out to do. Now I can’t wait to do it again! When it’s not 85 and sunny, haha!

      It must have been so difficult to be expecting nice fall temperatures for Wineglass and then being hit with a heat wave! Yikes! Hopefully my anticipated fall half will be nice and cool!

  7. Amy says:

    Awesome! Way to go! For me, heat is definitely a time killer and my worst race was on an unexpectedly warm day. Great job hanging in there despite the brutal weather! You deserve that medal!

  8. SuzLyfe says:

    First off, congrats. Second off, you earned every.single.step. of that race. That sounds completely and utterly brutal, and you should be so freaking proud of yourself that you can’t stand it. I know I am of you! Heat can take anyone down, and I’m so glad that you were smart about it. So, ONWARDS AND UPWARDS my dear! The worst is behind you!!!!

    • DarlinRae says:

      Yaay! Thank you so much. Now that I’ve had a couple of days to process, I’m DEFINITELY looking forward to the next one. As I said in an earlier comment, there’s really no way it could be worse!

  9. irishrunnerchick says:

    Great recap! That race sounds hard – heat is no joke! It takes so much mental fortitude to keep going when all your body wants to do is stop. I think that’s the real accomplishment of long distance races – it was hard but you kept going and finished. Congrats again!

  10. Jennifer says:

    Congratulations! That race sounds horrible, so even more amazing that you finished! I once suffered through a half marathon in unexpectedly hot. humid temps and it was all I could do to stay on my feet and keep the crying to a minimum. One thing you are assured of it that you will never forget your first half marathon, right? 🙂

  11. thesecretlifecoachofdc says:

    Congratulations!! The fact that it was hard makes finishing it even more awesome 🙂 My hardest race was my most recent half marathon in early June. It was warmer than my first half (although not HOT by any means), I was injured, and sick. But I powered through, just like you! I defininitely decided that I will only run races between the months of September and May, unless I find a summer race in Maine, Alaska, Siberia, etc.

    I have been thinking about trying sunflower seed butter because my office has a strict NO PEANUTS rule due to a coworker who has a severe peanut allergy…and sunflower butter is cheaper than almond, at least at Trader Joe’s. If you try it, you’ll have to let me know what you think about it!

    Do you usually drink coffee before a race? I always am afraid it will make me have to go to the bathroom…. 😦

    Happy Tuesday!

    • DarlinRae says:

      Thanks! I was actually a really bad runner on Sunday in that I don’t usually drink coffee before a race. But I figured it was early enough that any “movement” would happen before the race. Thankfully, I was right!

      Almond butter IS expensive, and I don’t really like it any better than peanut butter. But I DO love sunflowers seeds, and a TJs just opened near me! I’ll let you know what I think!

  12. kebe51 says:

    Congratulations! Believe me, I know how hard it is to struggle through heat and humidity (did you read my Princess half recap? I think I was ready to quit at mile 2). But you pushed through and you finished! It’s an amazing feeling and well earned by you! And now you just need to do RunDisney!

  13. piratebobcat says:

    Way to get through it! Growing up in Ohio, I was always fascinated by covered bridges…I’d love to run a race where we run through one!!! I know it was tough, but be proud!

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