This half marathon was once on the calendar, taken off the calendar and then the Friday before the race, it was back on the calendar. Kristy and I had planned to do this one together, but in July she mentioned she was going to back out with her injury. I wasn’t mad by any means and knew that was probably best. Well, then she started feeling better (YAY!) and it was back on. The only downside is that I did not register when the race was cheap, but oh well.
This was going to be half marathon 28 for me while it was going to be Kristy’s 50th! Of course I had to be there for that. However, I wasn’t too keen on the idea of waking up at 4am to make the 2 hours drive north for the 7am race start. I am not a morning person and 4am is an ungodly hour I never want to see. Either way, 4am came way too quickly and Kristy was at my door at 4:30am. A block away from the apartment, I realized I forgot my breakfast, so I made her turn around and get it. Thank goodness I realized that then and not later on.
We got to the race site, which was the museum of the Drake Well, around 6:20am. There was no one on the road, so it was easy enough to get up there. The half takes place in Titusville, PA, which is the birthplace of the modern oil industry. It’s actually pretty cool to think that it’s just up the road from Pittsburgh. Check in was very easy. We picked up our bibs and were given our race shirts. Since I had just signed up on Friday, they gave me a blue shirt from last year’s race. Kristy was awesome enough to switch me her shirt for this year’s race. It was red, so it certainly wasn’t her cup of tea. Since I wear them all the time, I was stoked to have the shirt from this year.
The goal for this race was to just go. I wasn’t going to push too hard and just let whatever happen, happen. It was a cut back week from Air Force Marathon training, so it really fell in line with my training schedule well. I had also done 6 easy miles the day before with the Pro Bike & Run group, so I honestly had no idea what to expect.
The start of the race is pretty low key. There is no timing mat at the start line. Sometimes I don’t get why races do this. If you have chip timing and a finish line timing mat, why not throw one at the start line? Maybe I am the only one bothered by this, but it’s just annoying. The race was both a half and full, and I just stuck myself in the middle of the starting group. I think I lost about 10 seconds or so on the clock with where I started.
As we were lining up for the start, the race director just kept going on about these loops. I was getting so confused that I had no idea at this point what the course was. All I knew is that it went into the town a bit, came back and then the last half was on the trail. Kristy had run this race a few years prior and got lost on the course. It had since changed race directors, but that was all I could think about. I was hoping there would be a decent middle of the pack group that I could just follow.
Well, luck to have it, the course the very well marked and there were awesome volunteers along every turn to point you in the right direction. At no point did I feel lost. Well, maybe in my head, but not on the course.
The first few miles were just a lot of fun! You did a small 1.5 miles loop and then headed onto a trail and back to one of the main roads. I just chatted with a lot of runners and got to see Kristy as she sped by as well. For these few miles I played cat and mouse with a fellow Marathon Maniac from Canada so we chatted quite a bit about our race schedules. Everyone was super nice out there. We also had a little rain around mile 2-3. I was hoping it would stick around but it was short lived. Either way, we still couldn’t have asked for better weather. It was high 50’s at the start and low humidity. It wasn’t until the very last 2 miles that I could start feeling the temperature warm up.
After the first 3 miles, you headed towards town. Since I had never been up to this area, I was pleased with the course as you got a little bit of everything. Town, rural road and the trail. The trail I mention was the Oil Creek Trail. A nice little rails to trail type set up. The first thing I noticed as we got into town was the Univeristy of Pittsburgh-Titusville campus. The second thing I noticed was that some of these homes were just big and gorgeous! The character in these homes was just amazing.
At one point we came to a road which I thought we’d turn right or left on as the campus was just ahead. Nope. We ran right through the campus. It wasn’t much, but it certainly was convenient in terms of the course. It was here that the lone race photographer was.
Shortly after that, we were coming up to a water station. Since I was wearing my new vest, I skipped them, but it was here that I started talking to a guy from Arkansas. He talked about how fresh I still looked (we were just in mile 4) and how he was already done. He was running the marathon, so I felt so bad for him. We ran about 3/4 of a mile together chatting but then I just kept pulling away, so I bid my farewell. Pretty much from this point on, I was by myself. There would be a few runners here and there, but it was a solo race by now. No one else to chat with.
As we finished up through town, we took a slightly different way back towards the museum area. It was this new area and around mile 6 that we encountered the first hill of the race. Now, as compared to Pittsburgh, it wasn’t a huge hill, but I think timing through off a lot of runners. As I saw the hill in front of me, I saw 3 runners. All 3 of which were walking up the hill. At this point, I made certain that I would not walk up and I didn’t! I was still pretty strong and had no idea where I was on time or pace. I hadn’t looked at my watch once.
Coming off the hill, we had about a half mile until we turned right into a parking lot and up into the trail. Again, I just have to say, this race had some of the best volunteers I had ever experienced. Every single one was there to cheer you on, thanked you for coming out and made sure each runner had what they needed. However, what the volunteers at the water station in the parking lot neglected to say was that to get the trail you had a hill. I thought this hill was certainly worse than the other one. Again though, I went right up. For someone who hates hills, getting up ever the smallest ones is a big deal for me.
The trail part of the race was nice. It was a simple out and back and for the most part completely shady! Since the temps were starting to get higher, it was nice to be protected under the shade. The only bad part of this out and back is that there were a lot of people coming past you and on their way home and you still had miles to go. Everyone was nice though as I think literally every runner who passed me said “good job”, “you’re doing great”, etc. When Kristy went by she yelled she had to jump over a snake. Now I was worried about jumping over this like 5 foot snake. Well, somehow the poor guy was still out there and he might have been a foot long. I am glad I happened to be looking for him as if not, I probably would have stepped right on him.
Finally though, just shy of 3 miles in, we came to the random turn around point on the trail. I was still pushing through and still feeling pretty good, but was starting to bobble a little around this turn around point. I had taken a Glukos packet around mile 9 and just don’t think it hit me well. I also started to feel that even though we were headed back, I felt like I was going uphill. I never of course noticed the slight downhill going in. I confirmed this very slightly uphill with the race director after the race. It wasn’t much and was honestly shocked I felt the difference, but I guess it was enough for me to realize it. Surprisingly enough though, these last 3 miles were 3 of my fastest 4 of the race.
Coming back out of the trail, you headed back over the 1 land bridge and into the finish line area. Luckily I was the only one on the bridge at this point. When we started the race and still in a pack, we definitely she rocking the bridge pretty well. With the last quarter mile or so, you could see the finish line up ahead. Then all of a sudden I heard Kristy yell at me and my finish time. She had been done for some time, but god bless her, she always waits for her friends to finish! I kicked it up all I could and once I saw my time of 2:18:06, I was just shocked. I knew I felt pretty good, but hadn’t felt that good. Lately my half times have been around 2:25, so that was just nice to have run the entire race without walking and finish a little faster than I had recently.
As soon as I crossed the finish line, I saw a table of food. Well, what I saw was watermelon and basically just grabbed everything I could fit in my hands. It was perfect and even though I was done with my run, the volunteers were great and made sure I had anything I needed. I quickly changed clothes and then we hung around since Kristy snagged an age group award. Of course she did, she’s bad ass! The age group award ended up being a cinch bag. Although nice in theory, we both talked about how a medal would just be easier. Although I am sure for races, not the cheapest. Finally we we got back on the road and probably home by 1pm.
I was happy that Kristy re-talked me into running this race. As this was mid-training for the Air Force Marathon, it was a great confidence booster for me. It was a great time to test some fuel and I was beyond thrilled to have run the whole thing. My past few races have been a run/walk, so I definitely needed this. Overall, for a small race, they had great hospitality. If you plan on doing this race, register early. The price is worth it then. Otherwise, you’re paying way more than you really should be paying for such a small race.
Official Finish Time:
7/14, F 30-39