Monday, October 24, 2016

2016 Race #17 - Rocktoberfest half marathon

Back in the spring I had some discussions with a coworker who decided that he wanted to run a half marathon this fall. Always on the lookout for more running buddies, I told him I'd help him get ready for the race, he just had to pick one and we could do it together. After deciding that a fall half would be the most realistic, he chose Rocktoberfest since it was a local race which removes a few of the potential challenges for a first-time race. I'd never done this race and as the last local long distance race I hadn't done yet, I figured it would be a good race, even though it was only a week after Ragnar Carolinas.

I gave my friend a basic training plan and tried to check in to see how his training was going. As happens a lot of times, life took over the training plan and he ended up running less than he wanted to in preparation for the race. Expecting to come into this race having just finished 50k the weekend before, my plan for this race was just to take it easy, but after the shortened Ragnar Carolinas, I decided to go ahead and push the pace a little. We decided to run together and just see how it went - he was worried about not being able to hit the cutoff time and I wondered how I'd feel running the whole thing - giving up my run/walk wasn't something I was looking forward to.

The race starts and finishes uptown near CPCC and we didn't want to deal with the traffic bottlenecking in the parking deck beside the start, so we met up at the midtown Target to take advantage of their parking deck next to the greenway. We got there with plenty of time to spare and met up with Beth before she joined her run group teammates for the half.

This race has a lot of hills! The course takes a different route than most of the Charlotte races and while we got to see some new neighborhoods, there weren't really many spectators along the course. This isn't unique to this race as it seems like a lot of the neighborhoods in Charlotte aren't interested in getting up early on the weekend to cheer on runners - there are obviously exceptions, but crowd support is usually quite sparse.

We kept a good pace through the first few miles, hitting close to 9:00 at some points. I tried to reel us back from going to fast too soon, but we were both feeling good, so we just kept running. I had forgotten to bring my water belt, so I had to use the water stops, but luckily I had thrown a couple extra GU into my bag in the morning and wore my Gypsy Runner shorts with the huge pockets so I still had somewhere to store my gear. We used the water stops to take a quick walk break, assess how we were feeling, and I used it to fuel.

We stayed together through the majority of the race, though we were each in our own zones, listening to music most of the time. I pulled ahead a bit around mile 11, so I walked at the top of the hill until he caught back up again and we stuck together until the end, taking one last walk break at the last major hill. It's a (very) slight downhill finish, which is a nice change from most races which seem intent on putting a big hill where everyone can see you struggle, so as we got a couple blocks from the finish line, Daniel said "let's go" and I asked if he was sure before taking off to the finish. My last kick brought me in 5 seconds ahead of him and he admitted that he didn't have any more to give in a sprint to the finish. My official time was 2:13:00, averaging 10:05 per mile. I haven't done a half that fast in awhile, usually pacing closer to 2:20-2:30 depending on how many times I stop to take pictures. The flip side of this is that I only got pictures before and after the race. With no official walk breaks scheduled and trying to keep pace with another person, I wasn't really running "my race" like I normally would.

Overall, this race wasn't as bad as I was expecting based on what I had heard. Yes, there are sections where you're inhaling exhaust and long stretches where you only see other runners, but I found the traffic to be well controlled and the cops and volunteers were attentive to the runners, cheering us on as we passed them in addition to keeping motorists where they needed to be. I really like the shirt and medal for this race, which was another motivating factor for why I wanted to check this race off my list. Definitely not my favorite Charlotte race, but one I would do again if someone else wanted to run it.

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