Monday, November 5, 2012

RACE REPORT: Hogsback Half Marathon

Before I can move forward, I have to go back and fill in a couple gaps in the previous three or so months that I've been away from Blogger.  The first thing is another race report.

I had written my 2012 race schedule with a half marathon somewhere before Beach 2 Battleship, but had not picked a specific race to do.  We all know what that means - I most likely won't actually do it.  But thankfully, a friend posted on facebook about a local half marathon that our tri club gets a discount at.  $25 for a half marathon?  Yes please! 

Hogsback Half Marathon 
Saturday, September 22, 2012

The race itself was only about 25 minutes away and was run by the local Hartford Track Club.  You'd think for being a local race for only $25, it'd be REAL low key with very minimal perks.  You'd be wrong! 

I woke up early - somewhere around 6:30 am - and had my usual 4 eggs and a banana with peanut butter.  Given that road races are much easier to pack for, I grabbed all my gear and was out the door by 7:30 am in no rush at all.  They stated on the website that they had limited parking, so I thought I'd get there early to hopefully avoid that issue.  I ended up getting front row parking!  Win!

Another perk of arriving early is easy access to the port-a-potties!  Since GI issues have been the biggest speed bump for my racing, I made sure to visit them a few times.  Aside from that, I got my number, played around with thoughts on clothes since it was a bit cold, and just relaxed.

The weather called for sunny skies, but only 55 degrees at the 9 am start.  I know from previous experience that I can run shirtless down to around 60 degrees.  I really did not want to wear a shirt for the race, but I also did not want to get out to mile 6 and regret that decision.  I didn't know what to do.

The race also boasted big hill in the last half mile.  In order to kill two birds with one stone, I took a warm up jog over to the hill.  I checked out the hill and also tested out the clothing options.  My decision was made - "If I regret this later on, I just need to speed up to get warm again.  I'm going shirtless."  I made it back to the car, chatted with some other racers and finally got up to the start line.

The hill up to the start line
No, that hill is not involved in the race.  But we had to walk up it to get to the start line.  That hill itself is the main reason this course has a net 100' elevation drop.

Once at the start line, I found a runner with an Ironman Lake Placid hat on.  Turns out we were both shooting for sub-1:30, so I pinned a target to his back!

"Everyone raise your left hand." 

That's me in the black shorts and white hat with my hand up.  My Lake Placid target is tying his shoes.

"There is only one right turn on this entire course; all the rest are left turns.  So look around you.  If someone has the wrong hand up, I'd ask you to make sure they turn in the correct direction.  That, or you can just let us know that they're lost out in town somewhere when you get back.  Thank you."  The race director was great!


"Runners, take your mark." 

I led the race for a total of 10 seconds!  Woot! Woot!  Then the hippy here took over and won the race.
As shown below, the first 6 miles are net downhill, but most of that is in the first few miles.  The back half of this race is net uphill.  So the chances of negatively splitting this race are quite small.  As Lake Placid and I ran down the strip you see above, he mentioned that there were a number of good downhills in the first couple of miles and gave me his take on which ones to race down and which ones to coast.  Turns out I'm a faster downhill runner and he's a faster uphill runner.

Elevation chart for Hogsback Half Marathon

My goal for this race was a sub-1:30 which is a faster than 6:52/mile pace. Given the terrain, I knew I'd run faster than my goal pace on the first half and have to simply hold on as best I could on the back.

Mile 1 - 5:47
Holy downhill Batman!

Mile 2 - 6:03
Flat-ER, but still downhill

Mile 3 - 6:16
Ok, starting to even out

At each of the mile markers, I hit my watch and thought "I really hope I don't blow up at the end because of this."  I did my best to stay with a comfortable pace I felt I could hold for awhile, but I'll be the first to admit that my idea of "comfortable pace this early in a race is much faster than at mile 12."  I just stuck with 'comfortable' and stayed there.

From the start of the downhills, I had been holding a strong 3rd place.  Two track guys were beyond my sights ahead of me and Lake Placid was just around the corner behind me.  Right around mile 3, he caught up and mentioned that there was a decent hill around mile 5.5 (doesn't show on the above chart).  Given his better uphill running, we ran together until that point. 

Mile 4 - 6:26
Finally a mile I felt was flat!

Mile 5 - 6:18
Lake Placid kicked it up ever so slightly and I stuck with him.

Mile 6 - 6:37
Lake Placid finally pulled away at the hill but stayed within sights.

Somewhere before the hill at 5.5 miles, a group of three runners made their way past us.  I was now in 7th.  And as we hit turn just after the mile 6 marker, I couldn't help but think "Am I blowing up already?"

I had already pushed a bit since mile 5 in order to stay with Lake Placid.  My thought was to stay with him until mile 6 and then let him go.  When I hit the turn, I still felt good, so I figured I'd keep him in sights 'till the mile 7 marker.

Mile 7 - 6:52
Hey, better than I thought!

We started hitting some rollers, but nothing too bad.  I let myself slow down a bit on anything uphill, but still kept Lake Placid in sights.  I still felt ok, so I decided to hold on until mile 8.

Mile 8 - 6:39

"I'm going back uphill and I'm still under pace."  Knowing how I felt, I assumed I was either in for a blow up down the road or my body was ready for a faster pace than I had anticipated.  I started another GU right on schedule to attempt avoiding the first option (I took a Mint Chocolate GU every 3 miles and water at each aid station).  Lake Placid was still pulling away ever so slightly and disappearing around all the corners, but I did my best to keep up for another mile.

Taking in some water at one of the aid stations (that apparently had a camera).
 Mile 9 - 6:56
Just hold on!

And here's where we really started making up for the elevation drop at the beginning.  All I did was pick a spot, a tree, a house, or whatever I could see and ran to it, keeping up my pace as best I could.  I knew I had a good amount of time banked, but I still had the major hill at the end to get through.

By the way, Lake Placid had mentioned early in the race that the final hill was somewhere around 0.5 to 0.75 miles long and would probably added 60-90 seconds to the final mile.  So while I couldn't do the math in my head at this point in the race, I knew that meant I needed to keep a faster pace up.  So I ate finished the GU and tried to hold onto Lake Placid.

Mile 10 - 7:03
All Alone

Finally I lost sight of Lake Placid.  There were no more straightaways long enough to catch a glimpse.  This is always the tough part for me.  It's much easier to slip on pace when you don't have anything or anyone to compare to.  I'm much better with a group around me.

Mile 11 - 6:58
Good!  Keep it up.

I was still feeling good (relative to how good you can feel at mile 11) and was holding pace.  I figured I had held something around 6:20 on the first half, so I had to hold 7:20 on the back half and was well below that.  But the final hill was still coming up!

We made our second to last left turn onto a back road and everything turned into twists.  It had warmed up a bit, but the road was completely shaded, so it stayed cool.

Mile 12 - 7:00
Here it comes!

From here forward, I kept thinking the next turn would reveal this final monstrous hill.  Each time I started turning, I got a pit in my stomach and each time I pulled around to see a flat stretch before another turn I sighed with relief.  

After what felt like more than a mile, I started to wonder if my sense of distance was gone.  I looked at my watch and it had only been some 4 minutes since the last mile marker.  I was just over half a mile in.  Anticipation ruins my sense of distance.  Got it. 

But then I had a realization.  There's a 0.2-0.3 mile stretch after the hill to the finish line and I was over 0.5 mile into mile 13.  So the longer it takes to get to the hill, the shorter the hill must be.  Awesome!!  At this point, I was THRILLED with every turn that didn't reveal this diminishing "monstrous" hill. 

Eventually it did come, but it was much smaller than my imagination had built it up to be.  I slowed down of course heading up it, but felt so much better than I expected.  In no time, I made the final turn towards the finish line, waved to the cops blocking traffic, and kicked it up a notch.  

Lake Placid coming to an awesome 1:25 finish having repassed two runners.  Awesome job!

Me coming into the finish!
 Mile 13 - 7:28
Lake Placid, you had me scared of that hill!!

With a solid 7th place, I crossed the finish to a new half marathon PR and crushed my goal. 

(6:40 pace)
7th place overall
1st place in 19-29M age group

In hindsight, I felt great when I crossed the finish line.  I certainly wasn't as fresh as when I toed the start line, but I could have gone another mile or two at the same pace.  While that does indicate I could have run faster, I also made a mental note - This is the first time I had stuck to my nutrition plan and it worked beautifully!

After crossing the finish line, I was handed the one thing you think a $25 race would NOT have, a medal!  Awesome!!  Different than the picture here, I was handed my medal by a boy who had the biggest grin on his face!  Double Awesome!!

Then there was a water station just to the side of the finish line.  Whoever thought of that, kudos.  Smart thinking!  But even if it wasn't there, my car was no less than 50 yards away.  And the food tent was just another 50 yards away.  And oh, did they have food!!  Everything homemade!

The typical fruit selection - bananas, oranges, grapes, but also brownies of multiple assortments, cookies, apple pie, pumpkin pie, and a marble cake.  Once it warmed up, they brought out seasoned chicken drumsticks, regular and vegetarian pasta, and salad.  For a small, local race, they pulled out all the stops.  And it didn't stop there!

They had a raffle for some pretty cool prizes that had been donated by local stores.  And then they got to the race awards.  Each overall and age group place got two rather large sugar cookies in the shape of an apple and a pig (specially made for the race of course!).  And for placing in my age group, I got a free entry for any one of the Hartford Track Club races in 2013.  Sounds like I'll be running the Hogsback Half again in 2013!!


1.  What is the least and the most you've ever paid for a race?
I've done an olympic tri and a marathon for free for coaching and I paid some $680 for Ironman Lake Placid. 

2.  Do you prefer local hometown races or national events?
National events may very well have better perks at times (not always), but some hometown races simply cannot be beaten!

3.  What is the best amenity/perk you've ever had at a race?
While a massage pops into mind first, I'd have to say the food at Hogsback was the best.  I've done some big name races and they don't even compare. 

4.  Do you race even when there is no medal?
I fully admit I ran this race to see how much better I've gotten at the half distance, but I chose this race because it was cheap AND had a medal.  Another medal to hang on the wall! 

Dream.  Believe.  Achieve. 


Suz and Allan said...

Congrats on winning your age group! $25 is a great deal for a half marathon.

Run with Jess said...

Great recap -- and FABULOUS running Kurt!! I love small town races like that. All the focus is on community and running. <3
I run a small(er) Half every spring for like $35 simply because it's by my parents (free place to stay), familiar territory (old stomping ground) and always strategically placed on the calendar in March that I can use it as a warm-up race.

Kevin @ HalfTRIing said...

Awesome bling. I love the pig.