A Race for the Fallen Half Marathon Race Report
Honestly, I had debated whether or not I should even do this race. My focus is the marathon, and I need little motivation between now and then to get my run on. A couple of things finally convinced me that I should go. First, the race was for a good cause. The sponsors of the race, The Police Benevolent Foundation, support the families of fallen heroes all over the country. Second, the race was in my backyard.
I woke up Saturday morning at 6 AM, about an hour after Dee Dee had left for work. I wanted to get to the race site around 7 AM to avoid any last minute difficulties. The sun was just beginning to brighten the sky as I made the 10 mile drive to Red Top Mountain. The race was starting at the Iron Hill Trail, which just happens to be the first trail head on the left if you come into the park from the south. They had opened the back gate at the parking area, and volunteers directed us to park in a field. I was surprised at the number of cars already there.
The temperatures for the day were supposed to be really good, not even climbing out of the sixties by the time the race was over. I sat in my car and finished my coffee before heading over to packet pickup. The tents were set up in a little clearing. There was only one person in front of me at the table. The volunteer couldn’t find my name on the sheet and tried to direct me to registration. Fortunately, my keen eyes spotted my name in the dark, and I was able to correct her error. She apologized profusely, but I waved it off. As long as we all knew I was supposed to be there, it was all good.
With 45 minute before race start, I headed back to my car. On the way over, I bought a couple of Powerades. I used the red one for pre-race fuel. About twenty five minutes before the race start, I headed down to the start line. A few people had gathered there, but not many. I took off down one of the trails to my warm up in. I ran for about 8 minutes, at reasonable pace, before heading back to the start line. Ten minutes before the race start, the rest of the people began to show up. They were trying for 300 participants in this first race, and I think a couple of hundred showed up. Many of the participants were associated with various police jurisdictions, and quite a few of them where overweight and out of shape. It was fun listening to them talk about the upcoming race and how they were going to take every available second to get it done.
A few minutes before race start, we all gathered in the little “corral”, which consisted of wooden traffic control barriers. I heard one of the race officials say: I’m going to say “On your mark…. set… then fire the pistol”. Without much fanfare, that’s exactly what she did, and we were off.
We ran up the gravel parking lot and back onto the road, where we made a left into the park. I didn’t bother lining up front. It really wasn’t that crowded. I had it in my mind that I wanted to run at “marathon pace” or nine minute miles. Oh reality, how I doth hate thee…. The good news was that the first mile was mostly down hill. The bad news was that the first mile was mostly down hill, and it fed my ego.
At the end of the first mile, we left the road and hit the trails proper. I, personally, have run quite a few times on these trails. I should have known what to expect. I did not. By the end of the second mile, my pace had settled in the 9:30 to 9:40 range. I found some people that were running at my pace and hung on. My legs were feeling pretty good, but I didn’t taper at all of for this race.
Near the end of mile two, we came off the trail and into the parking lot next to the Lodge. This is the parking lot where we meet for open water swims. The triathlon club was actually meeting that morning. Lucky for them, there was plenty of parking down at our end of the park. After crossing the parking lot, we hit a trail on which I’ve never been before. I was surprised to look up and see runners coming back at us down the trail. Evidently, we were hitting an out and back about a three quarters of a mile long. At the turn around, I noticed the rocky outcropping we always swim to on our open water swims. I had always wondered how people got to that side of the lake. Now, I knew.
There was no passing on the out and back. On the other hand, I wasn’t being slowed by other runners either. A few times, I had to go off trail to make room, but it was really no big deal. At the end of the out and back, we made a right turn and headed for the Homestead Trail. From the Lodge, this is part of the five mile loop I had run quite a few times. At the entrance to the Homestead Trail, the race had its first aid station. The kind, but oh so wrong, volunteer was telling everybody they were at the four mile mark, when actually, it was three.
At this juncture, my pace took a nose dive. Up and down the hilly terrain I went, and the Garmin registered paces in the 10’s instead of the 9’s. My running companions hand dwindled to about four, and I worked hard to keep up with the runner in front of me. The Homestead Trail is about a three mile loop. I paused at the aid station to drink again on the way out. My poor body was complaining. It was at this point that I realized that if I didn’t take it easier, I might not even finish, much less reach any conceivable goals.
We followed the hilly trails back out towards the main road and emerged from the woods right by the cabin they use for registering campers. That one small hill there at the cabin really dealt the pain. I walked to the end of the parking lot before crossing the road and getting back out onto the trails. I had never been on this section of trails. Thank God they were relatively flat.
By now, I had left my running companions behind. I was running solo. I passed a few people over the next couple of miles, before rejoining the Iron Hill Trail. I had run this trail before as well, and I remembered it being a 3.5-4 mile loop or so. About half way through the trail, with maybe 3 miles to go, I was joined by a guy running with a 25lb backpack. SHOW OFF!!! LOL… We basically kept each other company all the way to the finish. My legs didn’t want to run anymore, but I still managed sub-10 paces, even 9:21 for my 10th mile.
Near the end, the had a little out and back that reminded me of Rev3 Knoxville. It was two-tenths of a mile up hill to a turn around, then back down. Fortunately for me, once I got to the bottom, the end was near. I made my way back up to the clearing near the tents, hung a right, and ran through the finish line. My watch had a 2:05 time on it for about a 9:30-ish pace.
I grabbed my shirt (in Dee Dee’s size, I promised it to her) and some food and sat down to eat. One of the food options was Chik-fil-A biscuits, and I heard one of the other runners state: I raced for the biscuit! I thought that was really cute. I raced for the Fallen, but it still made me chuckle. One of the volunteers teased me that nobody was taking her sausage biscuits, and I laughed and told her it was just too hard to pass up a Chik-fil-A chicken biscuit!
I really didn’t have any hard goals for the race, but I hadn’t planned to trash myself either, and that’s exactly what I did. After about a half an hour, I went and checked the standings. When it became apparent that I wasn’t going to place in my division, I got in my car and went home. The next day, I reffed three soccer matches, with two of them being centers. ouch…
My running week has just been blah blah blah. I’ve been desperately trying to recover. I took days off. I ran a short recovery run. I took another day off. Then, yesterday, I tried to get back on track with my plan. I was supposed to do 9 miles, with 7 of them at marathon pace. I managed 8 miles, with 5 at marathon pace. Somewhere, in my sixth mile, my body just quit.
This weekend, I have an 18 mile long run to integrate into three soccer matches to referee. Let’s hope things get back on track and go better.
Have a great week end, y’all!