This was my last race for the year and it was a big race for me (not in distance but in other ways). To understand why I did so freaking awesome on this run, you first must understand what happened two years ago when I ran this race for the first time. In 2010, I had just run my first marathon in May, had run another 1/2 marathon a month prior, and was running sub 10 minute miles. However, I had done very little hill work and this course is very hilly. Even so, I managed to run a 2:31, which is a good time but it was a terrible race for me. When I topped the first hill, I was a broken man. My running spirit was gone. I managed to run the down hill into Hidden Springs, but I walked a lot of the rest of the way. By the time I hit the last 1/4 mile of the last hill (the steepest part), I was nearly in tears. I didn't care that the last 5 miles where all down hill, I just wanted it to be over. It was a good race time but a terrible race.
Enter today where I am now running 11 to 11:30 minute miles (2011 I had medical issues). My goal for this race was to not let it break me. I was not going to be afraid of the hills the hills were going to be afraid of me. I didn't care what my time was during this race, all I wanted was for when I topped the hill at mile 8 1/4, to be upbeat, happy and still running. I was going to break this race.
People mulling around waiting for the start.
The race has a late start time (10 am) so I showed up at a little after 9 to I could pick up my bib. I had forgotten that they offered a drop bag service at the start. I wish I hadn't as it was chilly. I was dress in my running shorts, short sleeve shirt and my favorite "lucky" geek socks. After getting my bib I headed back to the car. It was here that I realized I had forgotten something very important that morning: Nipple Protection. I briefly thought about trying to tough it out but knew they begin to chafe really bad after 1 hour and I would be hurting bad after 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Then I remember the first aide kit in my car. I must remember to always have band-aides in my car for such a race emergency. Disaster averted.
Me at the start
At about 1/4 till, I got out of my warm car and headed back to the starting line. Here I saw my friends Dondi, Amy and Nellie. We all stood at the back of the pack as we knew there were a lot of faster 1/2 marathoners a head of us. This race starts a little weird as they don't have a starting gun or horn. Instead they do a cheer where we spell out ZEITGEIST and then we go. The best part was the announcer forgot the last T.
We are all lined up and ready to go
And off we go. It was great seeing Rachel and Jon, who were helping with the race (although I question how much help Jon was since he tried to send me down the wrong street ;) ). The first mile of this course is a gentle climb through some very beautiful autumn roads. Then we turn left and begin a 2 mile climb up 500 feet. This was the hill that broke me last year and I was not going to let it this year. It was going to be my b'otch! I managed to run up the entire hill. I was a little disappointed that the Ricola ladies where not there playing those long horn instruments. Two years ago, it made me feel like I was crossing the Alps. As I crested the hill, I was still running and feeling good. That hill my mine now. The next mile is a down hill section so I worked on my running form (to help my knees). I leaned back and tightened my core. It felt weird but it worked as I didn't have a knee problem this race.
Autumn Country Road
Start of the first hill
The next section meanders thought the very cute town of Hidden Springs. This was a nice section of the race and I was still running. The next hill is a small hill at mile 6. Again, I powered up the hill, running the whole way to the aide station at the time. I did walk a bit at the aid station while I got some water. From this hill you drop down to mile 7 where the worse hill begins and goes for 1 1/4 miles with 400 feet of elevation gain. I knew that this section was pretty steep and I didn't expect to run up the entire section but it was not going to break me. I did better than I thought as I only had to walk a small section the middle of the hill and the last 1/4 mile (which is the steepest part). And when I say walk, I was power walking. I didn't have to stop to suck wind once up that hill. When I reached the top I knew I had beat this race course. I was king of the hill.
Little town of Hidden Springs
The final big hill.
The last 5 miles of the course is a long down hill to the finish (with a little hill at the end). The last time I ran this section, it was dirt road but now it is paved. There was an aid station right after the peak and it was the first time I found a port-a-potty that didn't have a long line, or even a line at all, so I made a quick stop. I have to give this race one thing, they have lots of port-a-potties along the race course.
I made good time down this section of the course and really tried to work on my down hill running (which I suck at). The next aid station was run by Pulse Running store and Holly and Brian recognized me. There is just something about having someone cheering you on my name that makes you feel great. I managed to actually pick up my pace after this aid station. Having run this course once before really helped me this time as I remembered where the mile markers where so the race didn't seem as long (at least to me).
The rest of the course felt good and just kept on running. As I finally came down the hill (and crossed the street) to the finish line, there were a lot of people lined up, all waiting for someone they knew to finish. Sadly, I was not one of them but that didn't stop me for making them my cheering team. I started yelling and hollering. this got the crowd into it. By the time I crossed the finish line, the announcer thought I had my own cheering section. The one thing I have learned is that if you need a cheering section, just start cheering yourself and the crowd will always join right in.
I felt really good about this race and even managed to get a new PR on this course (by 2 minutes). After the race, I went back to the finish line and waited for Amy, Nellie and Dondi to finish (and cheered everyone that ran by).
A surprise highlight of the race were my lucky geek socks. I had several people comment on how much they liked them and I even had a guy on a bike first ask me where i got them and then later when he passed me again, cheered me on by yelling "Go Geek!"
My lucky geek socks
Total elevation gain: 1215 feet.