Monday, 17 March 2014

Tobacco Road Half Marathon, NC

Last Sunday (March 16th) I ran the Tobacco Road Half Marathon near Cary NC, my second half marathon in two weeks. This race also has a full marathon course but I wasn't feeling brave enough to try it. I'm still pretty tired so forgive me if I ramble a little!

My entry fee was $85 (when I entered), a little pricey for a half in my opinion but totally worth it, the medal alone made up my mind on that.

I drove 3 and a half hours to reach the race expo on Saturday, a long but not bad drive. I was a bit drowsy by the time I got there especially as I drove to the soft snores of two dogs in the backseat. The expo was probably the biggest one that I've seen so far of any race that I've run here. I had no plans to buy anything so honestly I only had a quick walk around to see what there was and grabbed my packet.

Lots of the usual merchandise and since it was St. Patricks Day weekend a large portion of it was green (go on Ireland!). A lot of green shirts..I seen one with O' Runner girl...honestly I think the world must think we talk like leprechauns lol, but I'm not going to diss anyone who wanted to celebrate our national holiday. 
All of the race sponsors were there too, offering tasters of food and drinks. The packet pickup was well organised. Considering there were over 4,000 runners thats saying something. I picked up my bib from a numbered section, went to a machine to check the timing chip worked ok and then onto the next room to pick up my t-shirt. My god is it pink! The pinkest thing I own...not hard considering the only pink item, of non-underwear, clothing that I own is my ski jacket. As a nice bonus everyone got a pair of compression sleeves with their t-shirt. I was delighted with this because here was something useful, that I've wanted to try for ages.

The Race:
The race began and ended at the USA baseball training grounds. There was limited parking, so at registration you had to opt in to get a parking pass. I obviously glossed over that part and didn't get one, so I parked at the offsite parking. As nice as it would have been to park right at the start/finish, other than getting lost on the way there (my bad) the offsite parking was no hassle. There was plentiful parking, it literally took me 2 seconds to get a spot, and a short walk to get to a bus. The bus took off once it was full and it took about 10-15 minutes to take us to the race start.

The only downside of this being such a big race was that this was all done at an ungodly hour. I parked my car at 5am!!!!! The race start wasn't until 7am. When we got to the start there was gatorade, fruit, bread etc set out. I'd already eaten but if I hadn't I sure would have been glad of this. As always I like to make a ton of trips to the port-a-potties before the race, just in case, and there were lots of them but the lines were longer than last weekends race, no surprise considering the number of runners.
Now for what won me over to really liking this race. It was really cold Sunday morning and there was a threat of rain. What did the race organisers do? Erect a giant giant tent. Yes that was awesome, you only had to step in the door to feel the body heat radiating off the crowd, keeping everyone warm. Other than the occasional overexcited runner emitting a gas cloud it was amazing.
One last trip to the port-a-potty and I lined up for the 7am start. One national anthem later and we were off. Now for what I can see as the only downside to this corrals or wave starts. I'm so glad I was running this race for the experience rather than a PR....a good call.
The first few miles of the race were really really crowded, had I been trying for a quick time I would have been severely pissed off (either from dodging runners or from having had to line up for ages before the start to ensure a spot near the front). It eased off a bit but never really spread out enough to run freely until the last few miles. 

After 2.5 miles on the road (with a few small hills...well slopes at least) the half and full marathon courses split. The half went left, the full right. Both turned onto the America Tobacco Trail. This is a rails-to-trails project, were the old railroad route of the American Tobacco Company was turned into 20+ miles of trails. The trail is mostly flat with crushed stone coverage. Effort wise running on this surface didn't take anymore energy than running on asphalt even if it was a bit rougher. 
There was a bit of a grade on it just like some roads and I found this hard to deal with at times as it was hard on my ankle and IT band on my left it was an out and back route the same side took the punishment the whole time. The course itself was very pretty, lined with tall trees. At points there were a good few spectators with signs, bells etc and lots of volunteers, thank you all, you are awesome! The marathoners eventually finished their out and back section and made their way onto the half course. I cheered for as many of them as I could, it was amazing that the front runners were well over half way through the marathon and I wasn't nearly finished the half. The aid stations were really good (every 1-2 miles) , a lot of volunteers, so no waiting for drinks. They were stocked with all sorts; gatorade, water, GUs, GU chomps and that was just what I gathered from a quick glance.

 We turned at the halfway point, ran over a timing mat and were off to the finish. I ran really slowly for the first few miles, had a great middle section, ran with Elvis for a while (he was a pacer) and took it easy for the last 3 miles. Once I'd warmed up I was able to run around the same pace as last week and hold it for ages. Unfortunately, after a while my IT bands decided that enough was enough; not worried about time, I again implemented a walk-run strategy for the last few miles. I didn't walk a whole lot just enough to give my muscle a short break, get my form a bit better as a result and hopefully limit any aggravation to my knees. As I approached the finish I had a good bit of energy left and tried to kick it into high gear. Fail. When I tried to run faster my left knee complained so much I ended up hopping along, so I took the more sensible option of a steady pace. I crossed the line to get my favourite medal so far. Again there were loads of volunteers so straight away I had my medal and lots of water. 

A short walk and I was in the thick of the post-race celebrations. Music and lots of food. The food from earlier was now joined by beer, soup and pizza. I honestly couldn't stomach any of it so I sucked on some oranges and drank water and chocolate milk. Knowing that Martina and the dogs were waiting patiently (or in Boomers case not so patiently) for me to get back to the hotel, I hopped on a bus and made my way back to grab a shower. Again all a very efficient process.....I left the area two seconds after boarding a bus. I didn't get lost once I made it to the car...a bonus. I made it back.
 I'm totally going TMI on this but my first pee after the race freaked me had some blood in there, but apparently this happens due to exercise. Next race I have to remember not to empty my bladder so throughly that walls of it rub and bleed (and to drink more during the race), poor bladder :(  That happened once. I made sure to flush my system with lots and lots of water...if it had continued I would have been to a doctor very quickly. The more I run the more I learn about the human body, mostly a lot of things I never ever wanted to know...but its good to learn! 

My recovery from this is already a bit different, overall I'm not nearly as tired as I was after last week and I'm not as sore. However, I think my IT band (mostly the irritation to my knees) might need a bit of a break. We'll see how it goes this week but I'll think it'll be at most two 2-3 milers with maybe a 4 mile run thrown in at the weekend.

Overall this was a great race, I really enjoyed just taking it all in. Its really nice to run bigger races once in a while. I'd recommend it especially if they introduced wave starts.

Tobacco Road Half Marathon 2:07

Non-race wise, the longer drive really sucked up a lot of the weekend and having 2 dogs along limited the options (the usual Boomer, and a friends dog we were minding) for food etc. We stayed in a La Quinta Suites...super cheap and big rooms. I wan't sure what to expect for the price but the room was spotlessly I'm impressed. On the way home we stopped in Raleigh at a Whole Foods and had a big lunch before tackling the long drive home in the rain.  My next race isn't for a while and its here in Columba, SC so no travel involved! A lot of my races this year have been planned around areas I want to visit, but right now while I'm building up my fitness for halfs, racing and traveling is a bit exhausting so it'll be nice to have a race on home turf!

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations on finishing back to back half marathons in two weekends! Aside from the drive, it sounds like you had a really good experience. I would have been freaked out too after the race (in what you experienced) and agree that running and exercise really teaches us a lot about our bodies!