Race Recap: Leaf Peepers Half Marathon 2017

What | Where |When: Leaf Peepers Half Marathon | Waterbury, VT | October 1, 2017

Weather: 50’s at the start, mid 60’s at the end. Breezy and sunny.

Pre-Race
I got up around 8, chugged some water, made eggs and toast, and got myself ready. The drive to Waterbury is about 35-40 minutes from my house, so I left around 9:30. I stopped for some iced coffee on the way, and continued to sip water as I drove.

Parking was well-marked and very easy. Also relatively close to the start/finish, which ended up being beneficial, as I went back and forth several times, forgetting stuff, fussing with my gear etc.

Getting my bib was super easy, and all runners also got a jar of Bove’s pasta sauce. I passed, as I didn’t feel like going back to my car again. As I was pinning my bib, I ran into my friend Jennifer, who was running the 5k. It was nice to see her, and she introduced me to a few women who were also running the half, who I ended up running near for quite a while during the middle miles of the race.

I used the potties a couple of times and did some dynamic stretching to warm up. The race started exactly on time at 11 am.

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Miles 1-3 (10:24, 11:15, 13:58)
These were without a doubt the hardest miles of the race. I had seen the elevation profile, and knew that the first three miles had a huge elevation gain, but knowing and seeing are two VERY different things. I ended up walking most of mile three because the hill was just.so.steep and LOOOOOONG. It was super demoralizing. When mile 3 beeped and I saw 13:48 on my Garmin, I pretty much figured my PR attempt was shot, but was determined to keep trying anyway.

Miles 4-8 (9:54, 9:27, 9:41, 10:32, 10:10)
These miles were largely downhill or flat, and I was able to significantly pick up the pace. Any time there was a downhill, I just opened up and let fly. I have long legs and strong quads, so downhills don’t really bother me at all. Around this time I passed Jennifer’s three friends, and we all shared a laugh at how freaking terrible the early hills had been.

I took my first package of sport beans at mile 4, and my second just after the turnaround at mile 8. I sipped water every mile, and felt very well hydrated and fueled the whole time. I wished fervently around mile 6 that I had paid more attention to the course map, because I kept getting faked out thinking “The turnaround MUST be soon,” but it was a lot later than I expected and I got a little frustrated with not knowing where I was.

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Miles 9-13.1 (9:36, 9:25, 9:31, 10:10, 9:12, 7:49)
After the turnaround, I knew that most of the remaining miles were downhill, so I just kept reminding myself that after the first three miles, anything else was easy. I started passing people at this point, which is unusual for me, but I just wanted to be done. I was fairly certain now that a PR was within reach, and I was determined not to somehow mess it up by getting hurt or blowing up.

Just after mile 11 beeped on my Garmin, I realized that I was about to head up another giant hill. Those of you who follow me on Instagram may have seen this pop up on my stories:

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I think that pretty accurately sums up how I felt in that moment. Mile 12 took us out on to a dirt/grass trail that had a few very narrow sections. I got stuck briefly behind a girl, but managed to pass her when the trail opened up a bit.

Mile 13 connected back with our original “out” section, and was almost all downhill, which is likely why it was my fastest mile of the entire race. One of the things I really loved about this race is that they announce your name as you come into the finish. I sprinted across as they announced my name and knew that I had a PR in the bag.

Post-Race
My official time was 2:14:43, which is over three minutes under my old PR of 2:18:06, and I was ELATED. And also exhausted, sore, and hungry. I grabbed half a banana, some cheese, and a bagel, and hobbled over to some grass to stretch out.

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They started the awards ceremony shortly after I finished. They do a “King and Queen of the Hill” contest for the first man and woman to conquer the beastly hills at the beginning, as well as the usual age group and overall winners. As I was stretching on the grass, the most glorious thing happened. A woman approached me and asked if I wanted a gift certificate for a free pair of Saucony shoes. Apparently she had won it as part of an age group, but she wasn’t from the area and knew she wouldn’t use it. Score! The certificate is to a running/outdoor store that I’ve never been to, so I’m curious to see how their fitting process differs from Fleet Feet, and hopefully get some sweet new shoes.

Overall
This course was TOUGH, but beautiful, with great support.

Pros:
– 11 am start
– Cheap registration ($35 plus fees)
– Ample parking near start/finish
– Great on-course support, well marked route, plenty of food post-race

Cons:
– HILLS
– No bling! I somehow didn’t realize this prior to signing up. Maybe that’s why registration is so cheap?
– Shirts cost extra, are cotton

Would you run a half marathon that didn’t give out medals?

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Leaf Peepers Half Brain Dump

You guys, it’s finally happening. I’m FINALLY running a PR attempt half marathon. I haven’t run a half marathon for time since I set my current PR of 2:18:06 in November of 2014–almost three years ago!

In some ways, I feel like I’m super ready and prepared. I’m stronger than ever, both mentally and physically, thanks to CrossFit. I’m also pretty well trained, having completed two 10+ mile training runs, which is more than I’ve ever done for a half before. Yet in other ways, I’m full of doubt. I haven’t run that much this year. I haven’t really done any speed work. I’ve been wanting to attempt a PR in the half distance for two years, so I’m feeling a lot of pressure. Also, there’s this:

Elevation

That’s a whooooole lotta uphill right at the beginning. I haven’t exactly been working hills lately. In fact, most of my long runs have been on the flat-as-a-pancake rail trail. This does not bode well.

Still, though, I feel like the circumstances going into this race are good. For one thing, the race starts at 11 am, which means I don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn to get to the race start. I can actually go to bed at a normal hour and get up at a normal hour and hopefully get a decent night’s sleep. Sunday’s weather is also looking pretty dang perfect.

Capture

I mean, I guess a few degrees cooler and overcast would be perfect, but as far as I’m concerned, I’m lucky it will be cooler than 80 after the last couple of weeks we’ve had.

SO. My goal is to PR, which would be anything under 2:18:06. Running an average pace of 10:30 would get me there by just under a minute. Obviously, any PR would be great, but I can’t help but want to PR by a somewhat wider margin. An average pace of 10:25 would get me a PR of just under two minutes, which I’d be SUPER stoked about. So that’s what I will aim for.

HOWEVER. With that crazy elevation gain in the first three miles this will be challenging, no question. My plan is to be very conservative during the first three miles. I will walk if I have to. I just don’t want to shred myself right at the start and be too gassed to finish strong. I will also use the downhills to my advantage. I’m a strong downhill runner, so I plan to just open up my stride and let gravity help me out.

And if I don’t PR? No biggie. I’m just excited to try, after not having run a half marathon for time in so long. This will likely be my last big race for a while, so I just want to have a good time and make it count.

Anybody else racing this weekend? What are your goals?