When I ran cross country in high school we always ran a time trial on our home course prior to ever actually racing on it. The purpose was to ensure all the athletes were familiar with the route as to not get lost as well as set a base time in which we would try to improve upon throughout the season.
I had not ran a time trial since 2004, my senior year of high school. This past Sunday my dad, two running buddies and myself ventured to Gettysburg to run the half marathon course that my dad, one of the running buddies and I will tackle on Oct. 22nd. Again with the exception of high school cross country meets, it was the first time I have ever scoped out a course prior to running a race. Normally I just sign up for a race and go run it. There are a few 5ks that I have raced multiple years and I will admit that there is an advantage in knowing what lies ahead. Instead of being surprised by long hills or seemingly endless roads to the finish line, I can mentally map out where best to pick up my pace and adjust if necessary.
I looked forward to running the half marathon course mostly for a change in my weekly long runs. To date I have only ran one of them with my dad and it can be a bit lonely logging the miles alone. I’m also a bit worn out from running the same portion of the rail trail.
Deciding what to wear to run was one of the biggest challenges Sun. morning. The temperatures dropped substantially overnight into the 40s and it was only around 50 degrees when we arrived after 8a. I knew it would warm up as we ran though, so the question became to wear the gloves or not wear the gloves? My fingers are extremely sensitive to the cold and I have a cold condition known as chilblains that I did not wish to trigger any earlier in the season than when it usually flares up. I chose not to wear the gloves and ultimately that was a smart move. During the run I actually ended up doing a clothing swap – removing my tshirt and long sleeved tech shirt to put the tshirt back on and tie the long sleeved shirt around my waist. My running tights layered with shorts were a good choice though given just how long it did take to warm up and because there was a strong breeze during some portions of the run. I now have a better idea of how to dress for the race based on the temperatures that day.
The course itself was much to my liking. It began with a slight uphill grade in the first mile which normally I’m not a fan of, but I know the excitement of the start will mask it. Not long after it turned onto a portion of the Gettysburg battlefield which is extremely neat. On Sun. the history loving nerd in me kept trying to read portions of the plaques as we ran past various monuments but I know I need to focus straight ahead come race day. The course then went out onto a lot of rural roads which are my absolute favorite given that’s what I trained on so many years when I lived with my parents. There were few cars which allowed me to run closer to the middle of the road and avoid the camber which always feels better on my legs. The turn around point I anticipate will be the most challenging as it has a few “rollers” (my dad’s running term for low grade long hills) but there are no substantial hills. This gives me more confidence for the race as at least half of my runs have involved solid hills. The second portion of the course seems to be faster than the first. The last half mile involved going down the initial uphill grade from the start so that will make for a fast finish, a feature I love.
I actually beat my half marathon time goal of 2 hours and 10 minutes just in running my time trial. I ran 2 hours, 8 minutes and 2 seconds. 2:08 is actually the time I ran my first half marathon in. I wasn’t intentionally pushing the pace on Sun. morning but having others to run with helped me run faster than I normally do on my solo long runs. Overall I just felt really comfortable and the downhill last mile I ran in 9:02 after having had my fastest mile during the run be a 9:48. Since I’ve already beaten my time goal I have a new goal of getting as close to 2 hours as I can. I’m not ambitious enough to set a goal of breaking 2 hours as I think that’s too much of a stretch at this point and I know conditions could be vastly different come race day.
One more long run. One 5k race for fun. One full week of tapering. Then it’s go time!