Friday, July 25, 2014

Race #12: The Scream

I scream, you scream, we all scream… about inaccurate mile marker placements! Last Saturday I ran The Scream half marathon which is a downhill race which features just over 2300' of descent. 
I knew going into the this that it was going to be a rough race, but there was no elevation map to show exactly what I was getting into. While the majority of the race is downhill there are some fairly significant hills to deal with which I definitely wasn't expecting! The first two miles were on a paved road and then we headed onto the fire road which would be the rest of our race course. By around mile 4, I noticed that my Garmin was significantly off compared to the mile markers (by around .4 or .5 miles). Since I was consistently off by that far, I decided I should stick with the course mile markers - we were in the woods and the road had a lot of switchbacks, so I assumed the Garmin just missed some mileage somewhere (see my notes about the Pittsburgh Marathon where it clocked me at 26.75 miles) - so, on I went comparing my clock time to the course mile markers.
  • Mile 1 - 9:10, starting elevation 3808'
  • Mile 2 - 9:17, -3'
  • Mile 3 - 9:06, -156'
  • Mile 4 - 8:43, -210'
  • Mile 5 - 9:35, -354'
  • Mile 6 - 9:08, -177'
  • Mile 7 - 10:21, -96'
  • Mile 8 - 8:47, - 395'
  • Mile 9 - 10:43, -79'
  • Mile 10 - 9:13, -421'
  • Mile 11 - 9:40, -288'
  • Mile 12 - 10:33, -80'
  • Mile 13 - 8:40, -42' ending elevation: 2301'
I started to struggle a little bit between miles 8-10 because of how steep the descent was. Since we were on a gravel / dirt road, it was only flat in the middle and I know I spent time in the first half of the race running on the incline, so my IT band started to act up a bit by mile 10. By mile 12, I knew I had to get rid of my walk breaks or I wouldn't be able to finish the race running - it was getting harder and harder to start back up again after my walk breaks without a lot of pain in my knee, so I decided that for the last mile I would just keep running, even if I had to go a little slower. At the mile 12 marker, I was 1:20 ahead of my pace chart, so that gave me almost 10:30 minutes to do 1.1 miles which I figured was very achievable, even if I was slowing down a bit. Instead, as I was coming closer and closer to the 2-hour mark, I didn't see any sign of the finish - instead, I saw another incline. I kept running and running and running, getting more and more deflated by the fact that not only was I running longer than the 1 mile that I was supposed to have to go, but I was also going to miss the 2 hour mark. Finally, I came around a corner and saw the buses and the 13 mile marker followed quickly by the finish line. 

Pros
  • Downhill running means if you're in half marathon shape, you'll pretty easily PR. 
  • The middle of the mountains in July = good running weather. Even with the rain we had, once we got into the woods, we were sheltered from most of it so it was pleasant running weather.
  • Aid stations were spaced out well - one every 2 miles. The stops included water and Gatorade most of the time as well as GU and pretzels at a couple of them. 
  • Small runner pool of only 350 people, so there's not a huge crowd to deal with.
  • Free lunch offered at the end of the race (at the area where everyone parked their cars).
Cons
  • Having mile markers consistently .5 off throughout the race only to make the final mile 1.5 miles is unacceptable. After talking with someone who ran the race last year, this was an issue last year too which makes it even more unacceptable.
  • Parking / transportation: the place you have to park is a 45 minute bus ride from the start line (they say 30 minutes by car), there's very limited parking at the start and nonexistent parking at the finish line. The finish line bus shuttles took over an hour to pick us up because all 5 of them (for 350+ runners and spectators) left at once and it's over a 20 minute ride from the finish back to the parking.
  • No food at the finish. Apparently there were bananas, but only enough for 100 people (for a 350 runner pool). Combine that with the transportation issue mentioned above = no food for almost 2 hours after finishing the race.
  • You will be sore! I've had issues with my IT bands in the past, especially when I run fast for long distances, but that soreness only lasted the rest of the day while my quads took at least 3 days to start to feel better. 
Overall
I'm glad I did this race, and I PR'd by 11:13 with an official time of 2:03:03. Having said that, I don't think I'll be back in 2015. I may consider this race again if I can't break 2 hours in another race and I decide that's a goal I want to pursue, but because of the stress it put on my body, I need to make sure that I can do this race and then take a week or so off. Plus, I will make sure not to pay any attention to mile markers on the course this time!



Have you ever run a downhill half marathon? If you're Garmin starts showing way off from the course mile markers, which do you rely on?

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