The Just a Short Run Half Marathon was not originally on my calendar. In fact, it was no where on my radar when I made my race schedule for the spring. However, since the MS Blues Half was cancelled in January and I still had a plan to make the Pittsburgh Half my 40th, I had to pick up a race somewhere. I was looking at schedules to see if I could pick up a new state or just maybe a different race, but nothing was working out. Unfortunately, this race just made sense to the wallet since it would only cost me the registration fee. However, I wasn’t pleased. I’m not a big fan of this race and again it proved to be an ugly one.
Even though this race doesn’t start until 8:30am, I was up at North Park around 7am. Parking is always rough and I never want to shuttle to/from my car on this one. This is a “home” race for me as it’s sponsored by the club I run for, but I will still be honest in my opinions on anything i see with a home race. The first thing was parking. It is tight, but they advertised the Rose Barn, which is right across from the start line, would be open for about 120 cars. I figured getting there around 7am, I’d be able to snag a spot there. Nope. It was closed. Luckily, I snagged a spot about a half mile from the start/finish area in a little nook along the road, but don’t advertise parking if it isn’t actually available.
Once I found a parking spot, I walked down to grab my bib along with Lauren’s. It’s nice how the timing team does the bibs for these local races. They don’t assign you a bib number until you get there and you put it in yourself on the computer. The volunteers give you the swag, which for this race is a pair of shorts and socks, and off you go. It really makes it for an easy bib pick up. I quickly used the restroom and went back to my car. I had brought my book, so I actually read for about 30m until Lauren arrived.
Lauren had only planned to run the 8.1 mile race (this race offers a 5k, 8.1 mile, half marathon and 30k race), but during the Rock ‘n’ Roll DC half, I talked her into running the half. I found out that the Pittsburgh Marathon would have been her 9th and I asked her how cool hit would be if she ran the JASR Half and made Pittsburgh her 10th. I guess she loved the idea, or just felt bad for me and decided to change distances. Score! I was looking forward to another race with her and this one proved that it was great to have her by my side again. Just after 8am we walked back up to the start line area, hit the bathrooms once more and settled in at the start line.
This particular course essentially breaks down into a looped 5k and then two loops around the hated North Park lake. One of the reasons I don’t like this course is because it goes backwards on the lake loops. The loop is bad enough the “regular” way to me, but when you run Lake Shore Dr. and can see the finish line for quite awhile. I also found this way to be slightly hillier but not sure if it really is. It just feels it. The first 5k though is up a nice hill that gains 150 feet in about a quarter of a mile. It just is rough because you think you’re at the top, turn a slight corner and realize you keep climbing. And then you get the downhill and screaming quads in that first mile.
By the end of that first downhill, I think I knew deep down how badly this race was going to suck for me. I always felt that it was getting pretty hot out there as well. Even though it wasn’t in the 70’s or higher, I still wasn’t used to running in anything below about 45. I knew the temperature would start playing into the later part of the race just because I wasn’t used to any heat outside yet. We came through the 5k mark at 36:04 and still had smiles on our faces.
As we started this first loop, I still felt pretty good that there might be something to salvage on this race. As compared to Rock ‘n’ Roll DC, we were certainly less chatty. I am not sure if we were just tired, had nothing to say, but I picked up that we were certainly less chatty. Coming out of the start line area, we hit an incline that normally is a decline into the finish area. I wasn’t very particular on pushing up the hills if I didn’t feel like it and the theme of the course seemed to show that. We hit our 4/1’s pretty well in that first lap except for a few times where we lengthened at a water stop or some other reason.
Since it’s the lake loop, it’s pretty boring out there. It’s not like it’s a new course and something exciting was waiting for me around the corner. Also, by the time I was at around mile 5, the heat was hitting me. Sure it wasn’t super hot, but the 61 degree temperature wasn’t anything I’ve felt for a distance run this season yet and it was tough. Hydrating was something I stayed on as best as I could. On top of my hydration pack, I did grab some gatorade on the lap to keep up on hydration. It was pretty watered down, but better than nothing. The splits on this lap were pretty good and certainly where I’d want them to be for a long run. They varied from 11:19 to 11:50.
As we slowly made our way back to the start area to loop back through, we had so many people say we were “almost there” and “almost finished.” This is one of the things I hate most in a race. That’s great that someone is out there cheering you on, but just say something generic like “you’re going great” (okay that’s usually a lie in my case), but it doesn’t mess with the mind when you really are no where near being a done a race. I know looped courses can be tricky because some people might be done, but we certainly didn’t look like winners in that race. Lauren actually flipped someone off as I yelled something about not messing with my emotions because I wasn’t done. Not sure if I was heard, but apparently Lauren got caught giving this guy the middle finger. Oops. Never a full moment in our races.
As we came through the timing mat, we happened to hit a walk break. We both looked at each other and basically said at the same time how much we did not want to do this next loop. I told her I would be absolutely okay moving to a 3:30/1:30 or a 3/2 or just whatever we could muster for the second lap. The heat was really getting to me and I think Lauren wasn’t enjoying it either. It took a lot of strength to not detour to the bar right there and just start drinking.
We both were just done by this second loop. I think we only kept to a 4/1 for maybe 4-5 intervals total that second loop. We did the best we could I think, but there certainly was no pep in the step out there. Along the way we kept playing cat and mouse with another set of women. It would seem that we’d get a little ahead but then every one of our walk breaks, they’d get a little ahead. Finally on the back side of the loop, we started chatting with them. One of them was training for her first marathon so they were doing the 30k race. Slowly we all made our way to the finish area again. While we were actually finishing, they kept going. We told them to kick butt and keep going strong. Inside though, I was so happy to be done and not be going out for a third lap.