This past weekend I had the chance to experience my first Brokeman’s Running Series race while I finished half marathon #35. The Brokeman’s races were ones I had first noticed last year and was happy that my schedule finally allowed for one. Let me also mention that I am a 2017 Brokeman’s Ambassador, but I had actually planned on this race before being selected as an ambassador.
I planned to drive out to Columbus on Saturday afternoon after my Pro Bike & Run training run that morning. I actually had no schedule which was nice for a change to not have to rush out the door and get to a race. It was only a 3 hour drive for me for once. I planned to stay over at my friend Nikki’s which was also nice as it kept this race pretty low cost. In fact, with the race registration being so affordable, my only other big cost was gas getting to/from Columbus. In fact, one of the best things about these races is that they are affordable. Registration starts at $30!
Come race morning, I had a very early start. I planned to volunteer at packet pick up which started at 6:45am. The race itself didn’t start until 8:30am, so I knew I’d be outside for awhile just standing around. Well, I packed a lot of extra clothes for this as they were calling for real feel temps in the 20’s. What I neglected though were my feet. Sure, I brought my winter boots, but only had my thin race socks. Needless to say, I was paying for that mistake for many miles into the race.
Since one of my 2017 goals is to volunteer more at races, helping out at packet pick up that morning was a great way to kick that goal off. It was also fun to see all of the runners and meet several of the Brokeman Ambassadors. We handed out bibs, gave out race information and handed out goodies if runners had ordered any. It was definitely a cold time out there and thankfully around 8:10am we had two people not running relieve us all so we could get ready for the race.
The first thing I did was of course hit the bathroom line. There were only 5 port-o-potties in the main parking lot by the start line. The line was starting to get pretty long, so I figured now was the time to get that taken care of. I could always rush to remove layers and get to the start line. Even though there were only 5 port-o-potties, the line actually went pretty quickly! The temperature actually felt like it was getting colder and I was struggling to figure out what to wear. Finally with about 5 minutes before the start of the race I decided. Sometimes bringing options actually is not your friend.
To try and alleviate the crowd on the trail, they did 3 different starts for each race distance. The first to go were the half marathoners followed by the 8 milers and then those doing the 3.5 mile race. This was a timed race, but not chipped time. I tried to get as close to the start as I could, but knowing I was going to be slower, I didn’t want to also be that runner. Getting to the start line area, I ran into Elizabeth and we got to say hello again before taking off!
Since I had been battling with this hip issue, I decided to truly use this as a long run and not race it. I was bummed a little because the course definitely gives you a chance for a fast one. They say it’s gently rolling, but I found it to be pretty flat by Pittsburgh standards. I actually didn’t even notice any hills out there. The worst was certainly the last bridge going over Highway 33.
The race was fully supported with amazing and wonderful volunteers at all 3 water stops. For those doing the half you hit them for a total of 6 times. It was freezing out there and everyone was spirited and cheered us on. One of the coolest things about this race series is that the races are completely cup free. They encourage you to bring your own bottles or hydration vest, but the race director also offers to sell cups you can take along the way. You just won’t see any cups at the water stations.
The course itself was along the Alum Creek Trail and Blacklick Trail. It wasn’t wide, maybe 4 people across but due to everyone being pretty spread out, I never saw this was an issue. We went over maybe 4-5 bridges and they were the worst part only because of the ice. I mentioned something to someone after the race about how I was surprised the Rangers I saw out there didn’t salt them for the race. I found out that because it’s a nature reserve they salt anything. Interesting for sure. Either way, we were given a heads up on the bridges so everyone was respectful on runners taking it slow. We also had a volunteer right before the last bridge giving us a good warning for that one.
The first half of my race was definitely worse than the back half. Since I had been outside in the cold for awhile pre-race, it took longer than normal to warm up. My stomach was also a littler irritated but luckily it settled pretty early. Again though I just wanted a solid long run. I tired to stay on pace as best as possible, but definitely was a little all over the place in the first half.
Miles 1-6: 11:30, 11:13, 11:50, 11:47, 11:18, 11:34
The end of mile 6 and the beginning of mile 7 consisted of that bridge. Since we had a little loop at the beginning of the course, we didn’t turn around at mile 6.55 as a true out and back. We went all the way to mile 7 and then headed back. It was around this time that every runner I passed was cheering each other on. Even though you’re still mid-race, it’s great to support those still out there.
Mile 7 & 8: 11:34 & 12:25
Once I got back on the other side of the bridge, I didn’t necessarily plan to pick it up. I just kept at my 4/1’s and felt pretty good and tried to stay my pace. However, somewhere around mile 10, I did see a group of abut 7 runners and somewhere in my mind I got the thought that I could pass them all. Well I did and it’s not the feeling of passing them that makes me good necessarily but it’s that that late in a half that I still feel good and can pick it up a bit that makes me feel good. I never want to get to mile 8-10 and just hit a wall and have nothing left for the last 5k. I am sometimes the worst at pacing, so when I saw the paces for the last half of the race I was amazed.
Miles 9-13: 11:38, 11:38, 11:15, 11:15, 11:04 & 10:45 (9:17 for the last tenth!)
Overall, I felt I did pretty well on the run. I could have done better with nutrition but honestly forgot a few times & then my chews and beans started freezing. I tried to soften them but it didn’t work too well. I also think volunteering and not really having time to eat breakfast before the race also affected me out there.
What was pretty awesome though is that my friend Nikki came down to see my finish. It’s amazing how many races I do and I know no one at the finish line so to know she was going to be there was a great feeling. I saw her as you got closer and it was great to just not feel alone for once at the finish for once. Instead of the traditional metal medal, you get a woodal for these races. All hand made with love! Even though this race is much cheaper than most other half marathons, you still get your bang for your buck as all of the little details were thought of. I’m glad I had the opportunity to complete the Winter Warm Up for half #35!
Official Finish Time: