Race Recap: Cook Forest Half Marathon

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Have you ever started a race and soon felt like you weren’t sure you would be able to finish?

I’m sure I’ve felt that way in the past. I have definitely had runs where I’ve had to cut them short because something just ached too much or I didn’t feel well. In fact, I cut a 9 mile run in half last Wednesday because I just didn’t feel well. Not exactly how I wanted my last run to go before a half marathon I was using as a training run, but I needed to listen to my body.

On Saturday a group of us from Ki’netik Fitness headed up to the Cook Forest Half Marathon & 5k. It was about 2 hours from home. What was nice was the race wasn’t until 11 a.m. so we didn’t have to get up too early. The half was at Cook Forest State Park, which is really out in the middle of nowhere. There wasn’t even a hint of cell phone service until you drove 15-20 miles down the road toward the interstate. Not a big deal though.

Our crew before the race. Four were first-time half marathoners!

Our crew before the race. Four were first-time half marathoners!

It was a pretty nice course along a river. Small rolling hills, but mostly flat. I think overall it was more uphill on the way out in the first half. The weather turned out to be nice with sun for most of it. It did decide to pour on our walk to the car afterwards though.

There were about 450 people doing the half marathon. They did a great job staffing water stations and had written inspirational things in chalk on the road, which was entertaining. Overall, it was a good, well-organized race. The $25 entry fee was also nice. While there was no medal, you at least got a very bright shirt.

In terms of my performance, I’m actually happy with my time because I had contemplated quitting during miles 3-6. That’s totally not like me. When the gun went off, my friend Ivy and I were hanging together running about a 9:35 pace. My shins were sore, as were Ivy’s, but that’s pretty normal until we get warmed up. However, we both soon realized that it wasn’t shin splints giving us issues. My left foot was falling asleep, a feeling I experienced during one of my leg’s of the Tussey Mountainback Relay that was 4.5 miles straight up a mountain. I think the issue in both cases was the sloped road. It was very difficult Saturday to remain on a non-sloped section of road. I tried running in the dirt on the side, and ultimately just constantly switched to the side of the road that was least sloped. Sometimes that meant running down the middle because both slides sloped away from it.

I stopped at least three times during the first 5 miles. I stretched, rubbed, untied and retied my shoes, and walked. Nothing helped. I wanted to quit. I just couldn’t imagine running at least 7 more miles like that. But, I realized I was closer to the halfway point and turnaround mark than I was the start/finish line. So, I trudged on. Eventually the road started to remain level, feeling returned to my foot and the pain in my outer shin went away. I got to the turnaround point at just past 6.5 miles and crossed the timing mats at 1:05.

Feeling a surge of confidence, I pushed my pace. My starting 9:35/mile had dropped an entire minute to 10:30. Not cool. I made it a goal to catch to guys in our group who had caught up to Ivy and I early on, and that I had fallen behind when I had to stop multiple times. I caught them at a water station where I grabbed some gatorade, ate some sport beans, and pushed on with Ivy in my sights. Thanks to a bathroom break by Ivy, I caught her around mile 3 and we finished the race together.

While my thoughts of a PR vanished during the first half of the race, I’m happy to say I was only a minute off my PR and had cut my average pace back down to below 9:35. My left ankle/shin was sore afterwards, but icing it and using BioFreeze Perform has done wonders. I wasn’t sore at all on Sunday.

Now it’s back to the grind, but with beautiful weather in the forecast. Hoping for a nice easy run today, 9 miles on Wednesday and 5 on Thursday. This weekend, a long run of 14 miles is on the calendar.

In other news, yesterday I met my dad to go to the 67th Annual PA Maple Festival. More on that in another post. I’m also planning to share a recipe from Runner’s World for Kale Chips that I made last week. Very yummy!

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