Temps- high 70s-low 80s
For all those fellow 50 staters and Half Fanatics, I'm sure you've come across (or will come across) a few states you could care less about seeing but know that in order to complete you quest, you must venture to that area. West Virginia is one of those states for me. I have no ties there, no desire to see whats there, but the Ogden Newspapers fit PERFECTLY into our Memorial Weekend schedule, so we figured you can't really beat a $35 race entry.
B is from Pittsburgh, which is about 1 hr from Wheeling, WV, so originally we were going to drive separate so she could go back home for a long week, and I could drive back to Dayton Oh for the rest of the weekend since I have to drive through there anyway. With gas prices continually rising, I realized it would be cheaper for me to drive with her to the race, back to Pittsburgh for 1 day, then fly back to Nashville- unfortunately that just meant no seeing family.
Early Friday morning (530 am) B comes to pick me up and we make the very boring 8 hour drive to Wheeling, WV. 2 weeks prior to the race, my dad surprised me and decided since he had to drive through Wheeling anyway to return from a business trip, he would make a pit stop, get a hotel for us, and watch our race. I have awesome parents. We get to our hotel, unpack, then meet up with Bs parents (they came down to watch as well) to grab something small to eat.
B and her folks love casinos, so since there isn't a lot to do in the city, we head to their casino to grab food and win some money. I can't stand losing money, so I'm just an observer in their winnings / losings.
Head back to hotel, greet my dad when he comes in, then head out for dinner with both parents. (I love free food)
Since B and I are crazy party animals and have to be in bed by 9-10pm, we use the hot tub to wind down, get our race gear ready for the morning, then lights out.
We're not really sure how this is going to work out, but the instructions say that half marathon walkers start at 7:30, runners at 8- we're thinking this may be a misprint, so we decided it would be best to get up around 5:30, leave by 6:30, get there right before 7... just incase.
The race start / finish is in downtown Wheeling which is right along the Ohio River and is gorgeous...
Turns out there are a TON of walkers, and they do indeed start at 7:30. We saw the course profile- a 2 mile all up hill from miles 3-5.2 and then another uphill around mile 11- so it looked hard, but you can never be too sure- judging from all the walkers, we kind of get nervous.
After asking around we found out that the 2 mile uphill is indeed ALL.UPHILL- no breaks, and the hill from mile 11-12 is at a 11% grade...... um is that allowed?
Made sure to do extra stretching...
B and I realized we had some time to kill before our start, so we sat around and talked with a few different people- seems like everyone was in town from Pittsburgh. "Robert" (come to find out after looking at results his name was in fact Michael) became our official 'before' and 'after' race photographer. He informed us that hes ran the course before and that there are very few flat parts- that when looking at the elevation profile it appears flat, but in fact they are rolling hills- awesome. He also explained that a lot of races will calculate the average elevation for a hill, vs the actual, which is why the hills always seem bigger when running----- NO WONDER I HAVE BEEN AWFUL AT READING ELEVATION PROFILES!!!
I'm trying to convince B to get clothes that aren't black so I can easily spot her on course... at least I got a matching headband out of her.
Finally its nearing time for the start- they do a little ceremony for the 'ironmen' which is a group of men that have ran all consecutive 34 years of this race- this being the 35th year. This is also the first year that its a half marathon-- every year prior its been a 20k (which I'm told is 12.4 miles) Afterward the HUGE cannon went off initiating the start of the race.
Gameplan going into the race- go out slow and save energy for "the long hill", all the rolling hills, and "the steep hill" - literally zero time goal in mind.
After the gun went off I knew in my head I had 3 easy miles before it got hard, so I took it as easy as I could without going too slow.
For those tall runners out there... do you feel that there is something as 'too slow' where it aches in your hip joints due to not using a long enough stride?!?
Well anyway that does happen to me, so there is a certain limit of how slow I can go without walking (which I did plenty of later in this race)
I found it fitting that a little after mile 3 as I'm approaching the big hill that We used to Wait by Arcade Fire came on--- toward end of song it keeps repeating "wait for it" which is exactly what I was doing... waiting for it to begin
At first it started out in some neighborhoods, didn't seem too bad / steep/ unbearable.... then it got worse. Not only was the hill 2 miles long, but there was zero shade from the 80 degree heat, and the only water station was right at the end of the hill. I cannot express to you how much I walked- put it this way... my mile times were over 12 minutes lol. Its not that I was super tired / exhausted, it was more that my legs couldn't handle the pressure of the steepness so it was just easier to walk.
I tried to take photos to convey the magnitude, unfortunately they do a really bad job due to it not being a straight shot and having to twists around bends
Right around mile 3.5 (for the record I beat everyone in this photo- was running with them majority of race)
and it keeps going- mile 5
Once the hill was done we were fortunate to now go down the 'mountain' so to speak. I don't know about how most people run downhills- but its a love/hate relationship for me. I love them because absolutely zero effort is involved that would 'tire me out'. I hate them because it takes practice to learn how to run them fast, but still sort of brake so you aren't going too fast or letting your stride get too big outside of your center of gravity. Downhills for me require a lot of constant reminders to hold back. For whatever reason unbeknownst to me, most people weren't speeding up on the mile long downhill, so I passed TONS of people (always a great ego booster) At this point is where I caught up to the majority of the walkers since they started 1/2 hour before us.
All the "jarring" of going downhill made going to the bathroom a 'necessity' and luckily right when things flattened out just before mile 7 there was a port-o-potty and aide station waiting for me :-)
Nothing exciting happened between this point and mile 10.5 when I got to see my dad and Bs parents cheering- ran through some sprinklers again, made sure to grab both gatorade and water at every station, and just jammed out to some Girl Talk- not sure how I ran before discovering him.
The only part of the course that I did know was about the 1/2 mile leading up to when I saw our little cheer section since it was near our hotel. In the distance I saw my dad (being 6'4 does help) so I kicked it up a notch in my pace since I knew I would be stopping and chatting for awhile.
You can see me in the back left holding my 2 cups from aide station, waiting to drink them. That is 'Robert' / Michael up front in the white.
|I was so thirsty I nearly choked on my gatorade and water|
|so my wrists are turned wrong and you can see my deodorant- don't judge|
middway up hill- again winding turn so you can't see the rest
this is not me at the top, just somewhere in between
Literally right when the hill was done was the 12 mile marker. Since I walked majority of the hill, my legs weren't too tired and I decided to pick it up. Surprisingly I felt pretty good and had a ton of energy in me, so I kept shuffling through my Ipod till my "go!" song came on Through the Fire and Flames. Some of you may recognize it from guitar hero. I think its GREAT to have a song that no matter how you feel, it pumps you up- if you're walking, you run, if you're running, you run faster. This is the one song that does it for me... EVERYTIME. I feel its important to devote one song that you feel strongly about as your power song, its helped me out so many times.
Do you have a 'power' song???
So the version of the song I have on my ipod is 7:37. My goal was to finish the race before the song was over. Keep in mind I started the song AFTER I was running the last mile, so a sub 8 should still get me there. I picked it up significantly and passed some people here and there- slight downhill definitely helped. We started getting back into downtown, and as the street names got more and more familiar to where the finish line would be, I went faster. In this distance I saw people finally making a right turn, I knew from that point it was 200M left. Sure enough I get there, see the finish line down the hill, and I kid you not I've had the biggest kick in my entire 1/2 marathon career. I passed at least 20 people, which for this race considering my bib was 179... was a lot. And for the record, the song was still playing when I crossed the line- goal achieved :)
Upon crossing the finish line you were handed a cold wet towel to cool down with- what a novel idea... especially for today. I walk around a bit, use the bathroom, then go up a bit to cheer on B for when she passes through. Unfortunately she doesn't see or hear me, so when I make it back to finish line, she darts off looking for me and I lose her (again, why I'm trying to convince her to not wear black)
"Robert" comes and finds me, we discuss the race, and turns out he beat me by only 20 seconds- score!
We say goodbye to him and venture off to get our free food, talk with a few people, then make our way back to the hotel to shower and head to Pittsburgh.
Although the race had some obvious cons- heat, hills, hills, hills, sucky medal there were some good pros too.
- At every aide station (which there were plentiful of BESIDES the long hill) they had tall signs that directed you to water, ice, and gatorade- nice to know where everything was before you got there and were searching.
- race support was so so, however there were quite a few people out with their own water, juice, and beer!
- watered towels for the finish line is an EXCELLENT idea
- every runner got a free food voucher and you could choose from a wide array of what you wanted to eat- sausages, chicken, corndogs, FUNNEL CAKES, etc- unfortunately I wasn't that hungry so I just had a small corn dog.
- Garmin miles matched up with race mile markers- so rare when that works out
When choosing a race in WV, definitely pay attention to surrounding area- Wheeling is a giant mountainous area- other parts of the state may yield a different elevation.
Overall Time- 2:08:38
Overall Place 263/511
Age group- 10/24
Sex Place- 71/179
Splits (this is hilarious and Kim and I know you'll appreciate the inconsistency)
Mile 1- 8:56
Mile 2- 8:50
Mile 3- 8:57
Mile 4- 10:50
Mile 5- 12:45 (hill got the best of me)
Mile 6- 7:56
Mile 7- 9:18
Mile 8- 10:39 (gu / walking)
Mile 9- 9:15
Mile 10-9:55 (prior to stopping to talk to dad it was sub 8!)
Mile 11- 9:59
Mile 12- 12:50 (hill again)
State #17 done- West Virginia toyed with me hard- had my slowest and my fastest split during a half marathon for this race. Overall, pleased with everything given the conditions- and now I know that if I truly want to pick it up in the last mile, I do have the ability to do so!