Monday, July 22, 2013

Presque Isle Half Marathon Race Report: Enough to Finish, Not Enough to Race

At some point in time, to get ready for the fall and winter marathon season, I figured that I would have to encounter the half marathon distance again.  It is a distance that I enjoy in that I can run (and race) and not completely beat myself up at.

Once I confirmed that Waverly and I would be coming to Canada and flying through Pittsburgh, I looked for Sunday races and found that the Presque Isle Half Marathon was the morning after we would fly in.

We got to Erie a little after eight, had dinner at Cheddar’s and got to bed early – given that we lost an hour coming east.  I had a really good night of sleep as the alarm went off at 5 a.m.  We were both up and out the door by 5:30 a.m. and in the next 30 minutes, including a stop to something light to eat and some Powerade, we were in Presque Isle State Park.

What was interesting about this event - produced by the Erie Runners Club - is that there were no bibs, but everyone had a timing chip and got a technical shirt as part of their $35 entry.

I had run this race back in 2007.  I had flown into Pittsburgh late on a Friday night, drove to the Altoona area to surprise almost my entire family, including Waverly, and then ran a 5K in Roaring Spring where we had the chance to meet Brian Sell and his wife.

The next morning, early, of course, I drove to Erie, ran the half and then drove back to Tyrone, where I’m from and my grandparents – to this day – still live.

In the run-up to us making the trip, my father, Will, had been communicating via e-mail with a friend who played softball with him in the 1970s for many years, Jeff McNelis.

When we got in town last night, after eating, we were both pretty tired and figured that I would call Jeff, who was going to be there to see his son, JJ, run his first half marathon ever, once we got to the Park.

There was no cell service for us.   So the task would be to try and locate him before the race.

We walked around from about 6 a.m. until right before the race started at 6:45 a.m.  Waverly and I had split up at about 6:35 a.m.

The race got started on-time, but the funny thing was the lack of too many pre-race formalities for a race of this size (would estimate that there might have been a 1,000 runners.)  The gentleman who had the microphone in his hand admonished those waiting in line for the restroom that “you bathroom people had about three minutes left”.

Where I was queued up at, the only way we could tell that the race had started was for all of the chips starting to go off from runner’s feet crossing the timing mat.

I told one guy that Mike Reilly’s job was indeed safe.

No sooner had I crossed the starting line, I heard a “Jon!” and it was Jeff who was standing next to Waverly.  Hard to miss a tall redhead that you’ve seen in pictures on Facebook!

The temperature for the race was actually pretty nice for a mid-July morning.  It was humid, but not as much as Houston is.

The slogan for the race, which I thought was great, was, “As in life, you only go around once.”  The park, that is.  I believe for their marathon in the fall that it is two loops.

We kind of did a short out-and-back and I saw Jeff, his wife, and Waverly again in about six tenths of a mile.

I knew that a 2:19, which I did on this course on a whim six years ago, would probably be out of the question since I hadn’t covered the distance since April.

I ended up with a 2:24:19, but it was the strangest way to get that time – ever.

When you look at my splits below, you’ll think that I ran pretty steady and consistently the entire way.  Sort of.  If you call a half marathon a continuous series of 200- and 400- meter repeats with short recoveries.

As I’ve been experiencing on my 5K’s, it is like the muscle memory on my gait and pace wants to do one thing, but I don’t have the base to do what I might be capable of.

It was a little frustrating and it wasn’t until about mile 7 until things didn’t feel as if I had somebody sitting on my breathing a little bit.

At about that mile, a gentleman asked me if I wanted some of his fruit chews.  I wondered to myself, “Gee, do I look that bad?”  Yes, I was sopping and wringing wet the entire race – liked I was running after swimming in a triathlon, but I think it ticked me off a little.

I politely declined and then I started to run harder, and I felt good, but the continuous track workout continued.

And all the while, I didn’t feel totally and completely spent physically.  Such an odd feeling.

I’m really baffled.

Nonetheless, here are my splits:

Mile 1 – 10:15.66
Mile 2 – 10:29.25 (20:44.91)
Mile 3 – 10:52.25 (31:37.16)
Mile 4 – 11:00.75 (42:37.91)
Mile 5 – 10:58.87 (53:36.78)
Mile 6 – 11:06.82 (64:43.60)
Mile 7 – 10:59.32 (75:42.92)
Mile 8 – 10:52.27 (86:35.19)
Mile 9 –11:37.84 (98:13.01)
Mile 10 – 11:11.69 (109:24.70)
Mile 11 – 11:06.99 (120:31.69)
Mile 12 – 10:50.60 (131:22.29)
Mile 13 – 11:38.12 (143:00.41)
Last .1 – 1:19.12 (144:19.53)

After I finished I found Waverly and Jeff and we went over and met his wife, his son – who finished his first half marathon in 2:02, and his wife as well as his grandson.

We talked for about 10-15 minutes.

Jeff hadn’t changed in all of those years.  His son seemed to run well and enjoyed the experience.  It turned out we ran the same race back in April at the Beaver Stadium Run 5K.

It is the great thing about running:   you typically – regardless of ability and/or experience – can find common ground quickly.

Next half marathon for me could be even more of a challenge:  the News and Sentinel Half Marathon in Parkersburg, West Virginia in four weeks.  It is hillier and it will be hot.

I guess I have some work to do.

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