My Saturday started with a 4:30am alarm. Urgh. That is so darn early! I am not a fan of this time of day but my carpool thought it was the best idea ever to meet at 4:50am to leave for Morgantown by 5am. I tried to protest, but I lost. Oh well. I finally swung the legs out of best at 4:43am and started getting ready. I was carpooling down with Steff, Mike and Mike’s friend Ruth. Shockingly we actually got on the road by 5am.
Since I was up so early and we had the 90 minute drive, I couldn’t do my normal race day breakfast of overnight oats. I grabbed some bread and Nutella and Corn Chex for the road and hoped it would be enough. Steff also had donut holes which we ended up eating on the bus to the start line and somewhere around mile 2 I regretted that, but they were so darn good!
We ended up getting to Morgantown just before 6:30am and easily found a parking spot in the suggested garage. We scored a spot right next to the stairs, which after the race turned out to be the best thing ever. Once we arrived, we quickly walked over to the park to pick up our bibs. It was maybe a 2 minute walk from the garage and no way to get lost.
They only offered packet pick up the morning of the race and it basically was two folding tables. Nothing fancy, but then again the race was around a $45 registration fee, so I wasn’t expecting something huge. They also had a table of things you could grab: cliff bars, sun screen samples, insect repellent samples, etc. Again, nothing fancy.
Once bibs were in hand, we went back to the car to finish getting ready. The start of the race wasn’t until 8:30am, but group wanted to get on an early bus to the start line. I don’t think I was clearly awake when I was finishing getting ready and I forgot to put glide on my feet. This is an important thing to remember and I paid dearly for it!
We were on the bus and headed to the start line by about 7:15am. They said it took about 30 minutes to get there, so the group wanted plenty of time to get there. The bus ride was easy and honestly seemed to just drop us off in the middle of no where.
You had just over a quarter mile walk to the start line from the bus drop. Right where they dropped you off they had two lines of port-o-potties, which was nice. We got in line one last time before heading down the trail to the start line. We still had about 30 minutes until the start, but it got there sooner than I thought.
This race is described as net downhill. I was really excited about this! At the start we saw a map of the elevation.
As you can see by the map, it was one straight line to Morgantown from Masontown (where the bus dropped us off) and it was all along the Decker’s Creek Trail. These first 10.4 miles are all on crushed limestone trail with a nice overhead canopy and then as you cross a road the trail turns to asphalt, you begin to see more city and there is zero canopy.
I truly had no idea what to expect in terms of time/pace, but my goal was to go sub 2:30. About two miles in, I basically reassessed and decided if I hit a target pace of sub 10:45, I’d be super happy!
When you look at the elevation chart, you think of the amazing downhill, but I never actually felt the downhill. Most of the time I felt that I was just running flat. If you looked at runners in the distance, you could tell that they were lower than you, but I just never actually felt the downhill on the legs.
I have to say my pace was all over the place. Mile 2 showed at 11:00, my slowest mile, where my fastest miles were mile 3 and 7 at 10:19.
There wasn’t much crowd support since you are on the trail, but mile 7 had some people cheering you on, which was a great change. However, I thought in my mind it was mile 8 and that at the next mile marker I would only have 4.1 miles left. I cant even explain the crushing blow I got when I saw the next mile marker was only 8. I was crushed!
Overall these miles just were calming in a way. For the most part, I ran by myself on the trail and being out in the middle of no where under canopy I felt that I was running through Fern Gully. Somewhere around mile 9 we crossed a small street and on the side of the road was a guy playing a banjo. Seriously, only in West Virginia.
Once you cross off the 2nd to last road crossing, you hit the aslphalt part of the trail and magically all trees just disappear. I had heard this was a brutal area, especially on a sunny day, so I was mentally preparing myself for this part of the race. Luckily for us the day was pretty cloudy and I think that helped tremendously in not killing me.
The transition from the crushed limestone to asphalt was not big deal. There was also more spectators in the area, which was clutch in these miles as well. For the most part, these last few miles were pretty flat, but my legs felt so heavy, so I just felt like I was going no where.
Around mile 12.5, I heard a woman come up behind me and yell, “a turtle!” I was like whoa, lady, I get that I am slow, but you don’t need to call me a turtle. Well, apparently there really was a snapping turtle by the trail. I felt better that she wasn’t calling me the turtle when I heard from several others that they saw the turtle as well.
In the last half mile, I started seeing runners with medals starting to walk back up the trail. It’s always nice to see this as you know you are really almost done. I turned the last corner and immediately saw Steff, Mike and Kristy there cheering me on the finish. I gave it one last push and in seconds I was done!
Going into this race, I wasn’t expecting much, so the fact that I finished in my 3rd fast half marathon time was a complete shock. This was also only 4th half marathon that I actually ran the entire race. Again something I was happy, yet completely shocked on. Remember when I said I forgot to put glide on my feet. Well, the end result was a nice blood blister. I wasn’t too happy for it and I started feeling it around mile 8, but didn’t think it was that bad. Oops!
It might have been the fanciest of races, but this is a must run if you like downhill and are on the quest for your 50 state half marathons and still need West Virginia. The price was great and all volunteers on the course were just amazing! One of the best features of the race is that within 5 minutes of finishing, I had an email with a direct link to see my results. That was amazing! No questions on how I did. It’s a race I would happily run again.
Official finish time:
92/137, 30-39 Females