Another late race recap. Oops! On the bright side though, only 3 more race recaps left of the year after this! Yes, that means this was race number 27 of the year for me and half marathon number 17 overall! This wasn’t a new race for me as I had run it last year for the first time (note though, several things have changed from that recap & for the better). It seems this race two years in a row has been part of a new moon status for Half Fanatics. Last year it was part of the 3 that got me qualified and this year with my CT and RI half marathons the weekend before, this mooned me right up to Mars.
The Buffalo Creek Half Marathon is what small local races are all about. The race director is overly dedicated and updates registered runners on everything. For example, maybe 4 days before the race, the little town where the finish line is in, Freeport, PA, decided they basically couldn’t handle the race and told them to find a new spot to finish. With mere days, they were able to move the course to finish right at the end of the Butler Freeport Trail in Lanesville. This was very well communicated to us which was appreciated. To the best part though was that it took out the hill at the very end. Normally that hill comes around mile 12 point something and well, at that point you just don’t want to deal with that hill.
The race didn’t start until 9am but there is no parking at the start line, so I had to get there early enough to get a shuttle up there. I didn’t want to get there too early though because the start line has ZERO shelter and mother nature was rearing her ugly head and throwing out 30 degree temps that day. When I started the drive up I realized I did not charge the Garmin overnight and luckily the charger is USB so I took the 40 minute car ride to get a good charge. I ended up getting to the drop off point around 8am. I finished getting ready and decided to get on the bus to the start line around 8:20 or so. The bus ride was pretty short, so I was there with about 30 minutes to spare. Luckily bag check was right at the start line, so I kept all the warm clothes on until the last minute.
Once again though it seems that the port-o-potties was an issue. There were more this year, but where they were located, people only lined up in one long line. I thought there were multiple small lines so I went through and apparently they weren’t lines, but just people hanging out. Well, I then decided to become that person. Don’t hate me. I saw that the very last port-o-potty was showing green and no one seemed to notice (Since they were on the way other side) so well, I just went in. Yup, I skipped the line and I didn’t feel guilty at all. Once I was all good to go, I saw Carrie, Steff, Kim, Kim’s daughter Maddy & Brian hanging out so we all stood together trying to stay warm.
Finally just before 9am, I gave up the warm clothes and Brian and I headed to the start line. With the course change, it was pushed back basically as far as you could go. It felt like they were taking forever to get the race started, but finally we were off! The first few miles are on the road before you turn onto the trail. The trail though is a rails to trail and for the most part is crushed limestone. There is one short section that is wider than normal and fully paved.
Since this was the 3rd half marathon in 8 days, I wasn’t expecting much. I told myself the goal would be to tread this as a long slow run and just find some consistent splits. About a half mile into the race I decided to not look at my watch. I figured I knew when the 13.1 miles would be over and since this was just going to be treated as a training run, to just let my legs take it how they wanted to.
The first mile is pretty much all downhill. The second mile has a few gently rollers as I would call them and it was interesting to see so many people walking so early. I wouldn’t call those hills hard by any means, but I didn’t see the need to just stop and walk. I had actually forgotten about these little hills. By the time I was getting to the end of mile 2 the race leaders were already off down the trail. I saw Carrie fly by and then Steff shortly after her and yelled for her. Eventually though I finally made my way onto the trail.
Since the course was changed, the permanent mile markers were off. Solely basing off time in my head, I was guessing they were about .4 to .5 off from the mile. Again, I was determined not to look at my watch, but not seeing the exact markers wasn’t a big deal for me. My watch would just buzz on each mile so I kept count off that as well. We got to the first water stop somewhere round mile 3.5 and since this was a long slow run, I decided to walk through the stops and make sure I got enough water. I have a problem when it gets cold that I stop drinking water.
Since this race is along the trail, there aren’t many spectators out there and the water stops are sometimes pretty far apart. The worst was last 2 which happened around mile 9 and then mile 12 point something. What I didn’t like about it though was that there wasn’t gatorade. That late in the race, there should be gatorade. Oh well. It was nice though as I think it was after the second water stop I heard my name! Jeff, a fellow Elite runner, was there to cheer on his wife and other Elite runners. It was actually nice to see a friendly face about that time!
The mid part of the race seems to really be a blur. Things really were just going okay. Every so often, I would find a new cluster of runners and stay with them for a little and then they would either go ahead or I would. Even though it was much colder than it had been lately, it ended up being perfect racing weather. I had shed the gloves around mile 3, but I kept my headband on. More so because it was drenched in sweat and I didn’t want to deal with it. I figured leaving it on would just be best.
Then came the wall. The big, basically all concrete wall. This was something unlike any other walls I’ve hit before. This was like the wall I’ve hit before in the last 500 meters of a 2k erg test. Mentally I was still there, but whoa, physically. My legs were spent. Finally just after mile 10.5, I took a walk break. I still hadn’t looked at my watch, so I just knew where I was mileage wise and nothing else. I figured the legs were just tired seeing this was in the last 1/3 of my third half in a row.
Around mile 11.5 or so, I went to pull up my sleeve some more, budged my watch and saw the unthinkable. On my vivoactive, it happened to be on the screen that showed average pace and it was SUB 10 MINUTES!!! At this point I was absolutely in shock and realized then why my legs REALLY hurt.
By this point in the race, I was doing a run/walk mix and basically walking when I felt the need. Between 11.5 and the last water stop, I was with a group of ladies that would get ahead when I walked and then I’d breeze past. I clearly had some pep in the step still, but putting it all together was still a struggle.
When I got the last water stop I could have used some gatorade, but there was known (see above). I grabbed some water and honestly realize how close I was to the finish. A few volunteers handing out water said that it was only 600 yards ahead. My brain could honestly not compute exactly how far that was. In my mind that was miles and there was no way I could go that far. Then just as I was throwing out my water cup, a woman looked at me and said it was just up ahead and how great I was doing and don’t give up. I think it was the look of trying to calculate those 600 yards and pain that I got such a pathetic look from her.
Finally I could see the finish line! I tried to give it all I could, but there wasn’t that much kick left. Even though I saw those sub 10 splits, it didn’t really hit me until the finish line that I was going so fast. When I crossed the finish I was shocked to have PR’d yet again! I definitely did NOT expect to see a 2:10 finish time.
So, I still don’t know I pulled off those numbers, but besides my two(ish) miles that I absolutely bonked against the wall, I was pretty consistent. Running a half marathon with my final pace being sub 10 has been a goal of mine. I just didn’t think it would 1) actually happen and 2) happen right now. I think the course being a very nice gradual downhill helped a ton! I couldn’t have done that on another course with hills, etc. It was like the perfect storm to make that happen. In 2 races, within 8 days, I had just knocked off 4:46 off a PR that had stood since January 2014.
Since they had run out of hot cider and there wasn’t much of anything else besides water at the finish line, Brian and I decided to head up the hill and get the bus back to the car. We only waited about 5 minutes before a bus arrived and we were back to the cars within about 10 minutes.
I shortly headed out and stopped at Sheetz to get a big thing of Tator Tots. It was basically all I wanted to eat right then and I enjoyed every last tot. I ended up meeting Kristy for some PR beers in the afternoon and then later than evening met up Jenn and Lauren for a girls night. Sometimes it’s just fun to celebrate the good things with friends!
Official Finish Time:
42/77, Females, 30-34