This race was not originally on my schedule. Why? Because I was still suppose to be in Hawaii. Since that trip was cancelled and replaced with the hospital trip, I was really bummed that I was down a half marathon. At some point while I was in the hospital, I saw someone post about the Buffalo Creek Half and I immediately the had the idea to sign up to run. Of course as the responsible adult that I am though, I waited for doctors clearance before I signed up.
For some reason, I was really hung up on the idea that the Rock ‘n’ Roll LA half marathon would be my 50th overall half. I figured if I picked up Buffalo Creek, I could still make this happen. I’ve run this race twice before and it’s a fabulous local race. It’s about 40 minutes north of me so no real travel is needed. Sign ups went until the Friday before the race so I waited until Thursday to bit the bullet and signed up. I did an easy 2 mile run on Wednesday to make sure the leg still worked and then figured from there I could add on another 11.1 miles after almost 2 weeks of no running. Instead of just doing a direct sign up, I actually did a bib transfer from someone in the local running club. Luckily this race made it easy and by Thursday I had not only signed up but also swung by the local running store on my way home from Erie to pick up my bib. This was happening.
Race morning wasn’t too early since the race started at 9am. The drive from my apartment is about 40 minutes to get north and I had to stop and get gas, so I was on the road by 7:15am. As I mentioned, I have run this race before, but not since they made the switch to park everyone at the church and move the start line to the same area. Before we all bussed to the start line and then back to the parking area from the finish line. It seems now you only get bussed once from the finish line back to the church. I didn’t know how bad parking might be, so my goal was to get to the church around 8:15am and I pretty much hit that right on the nose.
When I arrived to the church, I was thankful the directions seemed to take my in the back way as there was a long line of cars waiting to turn into park coming from the other direction. The volunteer told me I would have to drive up to the secondary location and walk down, but I turned into the parking area instead. I didn’t want to deal with having to walk back and forth. As soon as I got parked, I hit the bathroom line. While it took about 10 minutes to get through the line, I was glad I did it then versus closer to start time as I had time to relax in my car before tying up the shoes and heading to the start line.
One of the reasons I have always loved this race is that so many local friends run it. I ran into so many people and everyone probably thought I was crazy for being there. Several ladies were going for a PR and while they looked nervous, I knew this was the course to do it. In fact, this is my PR from 2 years ago still. After a few hellos, they all went toward the front of the pack and I settled into the middle. I would stick to my 4/1 ratio and if I felt that my leg wasn’t doing great, I would absolutely back off and walk. If worse care to worse, I would bail at an aid station, but I knew I had 3.5 hours and I could certainly walk a half in that time frame.
I am breaking this race up into different sections to better reflect how I truly felt during the race. The first two miles of this race are on back country roads. Then you run on the Butler-Freeport trail until mile 12.6 before you head off the trail and into the finish line. For the most part, the first two miles had not changed too much from previous time I had run it. We left the church and I really did my best to pull back and not push hard. I wanted to just maintain an even steady pace. These miles ranged from 11:41 to 12:07. It’s in these first two miles that you get some decent downhill.
Just after mile 2 we cut down to the trail. This was a different cut out point from when I had run this race before. I still tried to stay steady and pull back a bit more. I was actually successful in this a bit as my 3rd mile was a 12:07. At some point, Joanna passed me as she was starting her tempo miles for her ace. Otherwise, I was certainly back of the pack and didn’t have too many runners behind me. It was late mile 4 that my leg had a little pain. It didn’t hurt too much and it certainly didn’t stop me, but it reminded me to just stay steady and not to push it. Oops. I didn’t actually listen to that though as I headed into mile 5.
Not to push it. That was the key and I forgot that somehow. This course does drop about 600 feet in elevation of the course and the best part is that you don’t realize it. I was feeling pretty good still and was hitting some more consistent miles at 5-7 from 11:46, 11:42, and 11:45. I stayed on my 4/1 the entire time too. It was probably around mile 6 that I realized I was actually pushing myself. I wasn’t going hard, but I noticed an uptick in my breathing and heart rate and felt that difference on the walk breaks.
What I also started to do, which I think was the demise of my miles, is that I was picking people on the course and then pushing to pick them off. I rarely ever do this in a race. I would see a person and tell myself that within the next half mile, be in front of them. Why I was doing them, I am not sure. It might have been a way to keep my mind focused on something since it’s easy to get bored out there.
This is when I felt the pace getting faster. I dropped to an 11:32, 11:38, 11:21 and then an 11:27. Sure, the pace isn’t that much faster, but I was feeling it and I really had no reason to even be trying to his those paces. I thought for the entire race, I would be down around 12:15-12:30.
Well, it didn’t keep up as right around mile 11.5, I hit the wall. Sure, mile 11 was still a good pace, but that wall came up fast and it hit hard. I knew from this point I only had about a mile left on the trail, but then I had that stupid hill before I headed down to the finish line.
This last mile and a half sucked. I did everything I could to push and dig it out, but my body was not seeing any of it. This part of the course is also a bit more open and I started to feel the heat creeping in. It was maybe 45 degrees at the start, but weather was calling for the highs to be in the upper 70s and it was certainly on its way there by the time I was on this latter part of the trail.
At this point, I was still selecting a person and trying to pick them off. Now is when it really helped to get my mind off my legs and lungs burning and just getting myself to the finish line. I still somehow maintained my 4/1’s but I certainly slowed my pace. Mile 12 was an 11:49 and then came mile 13 with the dreaded hill. I pulled that mile out in a 12:19, which was certainly my slowest. I won’t lie, As soon as I turned right and off that rail, I slowed down and walked that hill like I had all day long. I was no going to try and be brave and run that hill. Nope. There was no reason for that.
As you come off the hill, you turn left to go over a bridge and then you can see the finish line. I didn’t have much left in the tank for a kick, but I did what I could. As you came closer to the finish line, they announced your name. I always love a race that makes it personal for a finish. I crossed the line and saw my friend Brian after grabbing my medal and all I wanted to do was be on the ground. I knew he had finished well ahead of me so it was nice of him to stick around! He had heard my name being announced and even grabbed some great finish line photo of me.
After making it to my feet again, I headed over to get some apple cider. Usually it’s in the 40s all the way through for this race, so hot apple cider is amazing. This year though they offered a hot and not option. I chose and not and it was exactly what I needed. I saw some of the other girls and congratulated Gretchen and Jessie on their awesome PRs. There really is something about this race. I know so many that have their PR on this course. Finally we all headed toward the bus and back to the Church to head home.
Considering that this race was done 6 days after my hospitalization, I was very please with how I did. Most of my races seem to have been in the high 2:30s/low 2:40s lately, so I was pleased to put up a 2:34:xx. Overall the leg held up and I was glad to get this half in as #49. Maybe one year soon I can go back out there and actually race it to better to improve my PR.
Official Finish Time:
61/79, Female 30-34