Race Report: Gorges Ithaca Half Marathon

Up until a few weeks ago, I wasn't planning on running this race. I thought there was a bike race in Watkins Glen that I wanted to do today, but found out from my friend a few weeks ago that it was canceled for this year. I hadn't put much thought into this half marathon since I was planning on the bike race, but since the day was now free, I decided to sign up.

The course was very appealing: a point to point race, with the first six miles or so on the Black Diamond Trail (which I've run on before and love). That part was all downhill, and the rest was flat - no uphills at all!

I hate running in the heat, but the race started at 7:30am so I thought it wouldn't be too bad. I polled a bunch of running friends about what brands and styles of shorts they liked (I ended up going with a pair of tight Osielle ones). Since I decided to do this race kind of short notice, I didn't have time to fit a lot of long training runs in. I did the Skunk Cabbage Half in April and didn't run a whole lot afterwards. My longest run between Skunk and today's race was 9 miles 2 weekends ago. I did a few other runs of 3-5 miles, and biked, but figured if I could manage in the Skunk Half, I'd be OK for this once since the course was a lot easier.

Nick and I got to the start line around 6:30am (he was volunteering at the start before the race). I wandered around the roads and jogged a little bit. Surprisingly I ran into my friend Amy and ended up being near her and her friend Christina at the start. Soon enough, we were off. There was a short bit (less than a mile) on the road then we turned onto the Black Diamond Trail until about mile 6. I borrowed my friend's Garmin watch for this race so I could monitor my pacing. The first few miles were much faster than I normally run...8-8:30 min/mi pace. I wondered if I should slow down to pace myself, or push it and just gain as much time as possible on this downhill. We were also in the shade on the trail, which was nice because it was in the 70s. I opted to stick around the 8:30 pace for as long as I could.

I carried my larger running water bottle with me, so I was able to pass the first aid station. I was feeling pretty good about things despite my lack of training. Towards the end of the trail a couple was running behind me blasting 80s rock music which was kind of annoying. They also had their phone volume up super high and were getting stats every TENTH OF A MILE. So every minute the music would cut out and the phone would announce their distance, pace, time, etc. It was pretty annoying.

When we got off the trail in Cass Park (I finally got away from the couple with the music) it felt like we were in a different climate. It was so hot in the sun. Suddenly a lot more people were walking. I was a little unmotivated knowing that the downhill was over and the consistent shade was gone.

I made a stop at all of the other aid stations for the rest of the race to refill my bottle with water, also drinking some Tailwind at some of the stops. I walked through the stops and had to walk a few other times to stretch out and get a good drink. The heat just sucks up all of my energy. Seeing lots of other people walking also made me tempted to do it. My legs felt OK, and my breathing was OK, I was just really hot and just overall tired. 

We ran through Cass park, over to the Famer's Market, through Stewart Park, then down Lake St. I was much slower in these parts than I was on the BDT - now between 9:10-10:00 min/mi. After mile 11 my right calf and both my feet were starting to hurt. The last mile was the longest mile I've ever run. I turned onto Tioga St, knowing the finish was at the end, but it seemed so far away. I felt like I was crawling (I wasn't going that slow really, but it felt like it). Finally, finally, I reached the finish. I heard some friends cheering for me, and Lesley was volunteering and handed me my medal.

My time was 2 hours 3 minutes; five minutes faster than my Skunk Cabbage Half in April. My goal was to beat that time, so, goal achieved. I would have liked to come in under two hours, but my lack of long runs and the heat didn't let that happen. I find I often have a hard time pushing myself. I'll have a goal at the start of a race, but when things get uncomfortable I'm pretty willing to give up on/change my goal so I don't have to push into a really uncomfortable place. I blame this on never playing any type of sport when I was a kid and not really knowing how to push through pain or gauge my fitness level well. I've gotten better at it with biking, but don't run often enough to be good at that yet. Will try to work on it...

After I finished I realized it was probably the sweatiest and saltiest I'd ever been. Yikes. There was a pretty nice after-party on the commons. Nick found me quickly and we found some other friends and wandered around the commons. There was free food and we got free beer from Ithaca Beer. I got an ice pop, some homemade granola bite things, a little bit of fruit and some scrambled eggs, and an Apricot Wheat from Ithaca Beer. I felt OK right after the race, but after eating and hanging out for a while I didn't feel good. My stomach felt nauseous and I really wanted to sit down and drink water.

We headed home and I immediately took a shower then took a nap in front of the fan. Shortly afterwards my mom and cousin came up and all of us went to the mall in Syracuse so Nick and I could look for clothes for a wedding we are going to in a few weeks. I suppose wandering around the mall was good after the run. Finally came home for the night around 7pm...ate more food, and am looking forward to going to bed momentarily!

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