Race Report: Double Creek Half Marathon
Last weekend I traveled to Pennsylvania to visit my sister, run a half marathon and try a few new beers.
Friday evening we visited the Troegs brewery and Hershey’s Chocolate World, which I just posted about here. After those adventures, we headed out for a carbo-load, and visited a restaurant for salad and pasta. It ended up being a rather late dinner due to the other places we went, but that was okay. Just some standard spaghetti with artichoke mixed in – yum!
We turned in for the night with less than 5 hours of sleep between us and our alarm clocks. Morning arrived and I had some peanut butter toast before we hit the road toward Dover, about 40 minutes away.
I found out about the Double Creek Half Marathon through some diligent Googling in the beginning of April when I was trying to plan a visit to see my sister Meredith, and we decided it might be fun to run a race that weekend too. The website was pretty bad, really. I don’t think the address of the race start was written anywhere. Granted, the school name that served as the start was there, and there were directions posted as well, but come on people, you’ve got to clearly give an address on your website. The event also consisted of assorted distance bicycle races, a 5k run and 1 mile run.
Parking and packet pick-up were easy. The weather was perfect – a bit of a chill in the air before the 7am start, which is always pleasant. It warmed up during the race but only to the low-to-mid 60s. Great running weather.
The race almost started out really, really badly. The finish was chip-timed, but there was no timing start mat. I started back a little bit from the leaders (obviously) and the sign marking the start line was along the side of the road, and I was running right in the center. So as we all started moving toward the start line, I was looking to the side to start my watch when I crossed the actual line. Well, apparently there was a big yellow cone in the center of the two-lane starting area and I tripped over it and very nearly went down. Some real acrobatics were required for me to stay upright. Yeesh.
I went out too fast, and saw 8:10 at my first split. Tried to slow myself down and saw 8:10 again on my second mile split. Come on. Got it under control for mile 3 (around goal pace) at 8:43. Then the big hill section began and the splits got wacky. 10:00 (all up), 8:40, 8:19, 8:37… That brought us to just past halfway in and there was an aid station with one portajohn, which I had been hoping to find.
But oh my good heavens it was NOT something anyone would really hope to find. It always baffles me how runners destroy toilets worse than I’ve ever seen. All the worst porta-potties I’ve ever happened upon were all at races. This one someone had literally crapped everywhere. Like including the floor. How does someone manage to go on the floor, I don’t understand. I carefully did what I needed to do, but it took some extra time as I had to protect myself from the mess. Absolutely terrible, really. Got out of there and “washed” my hands with a cup of water at the aid station. There was another lady waiting outside and I apologized for what she was about to find and made it clear that it was NOT my doing.
As I continued on the run, there was a field of horses on the left all up against the fence watching the runners pass, then on the right was a barn of cows who were also all up to the fence to watch us run. Nice spectators… but it smelled like crap. With the porta-potty and the animal smells, I started getting paranoid that I’d somehow gotten some of the mess on myself and was trying to do an evaluation. All was good except I couldn’t see the back of my shorts or legs. After a mile or so of stressing over it, imagining splotches of crap all over the back of me, I stopped to “tie my shoes” and during my untie and retry process I was able to check out the back of my shorts and legs and confirm I was clean. Thank goodness. I wish I could have back the 2.5 minutes I gave to those distractions.
All that said, the course was really lovely. Challenging with a couple very steep hills and then plenty of rollers, but beautiful to run through farmland and such a calm setting. On one of the uphill sections I did give in to a little bit of power-walking which seemed just as fast as the pace I was “running” up that incline. But the downhills were pretty nice in return!
The mile with the pit stop clocked in at 10:18, then as I got back to running we had 8:52, 9:00, 8:58, 8:55. At the halfway point, I had some hope for a big PR, but that faded as my legs tired and the effects of going out too fast caught up with me. The sun was getting higher and I was fading some, but I could tell that I was still in the range of a new PR, albeit a small one, and I knocked out mile 13 in 8:02. Crossed the finish line with 1:55:05 on my Garmin, which is the time I am counting although the official results have those 10 seconds included that elapsed before I crossed the start line and almost got trampled by taking out the cone. My old PR was 1:55:42, so it’s barely better, but still counts as my new PR.
The finish line had a nice touch, in that it read out the chip and there was a monitor showing your name and official time as you passed through the chute toward the medals. I thought that was a nice touch. Also, I just visited the website and there was a link to finish line photos that I didn’t even know had been taken! Mine isn’t great, but you have to appreciate a free-to-download photo.
I collected my medal and the best treat ever – an ice cold towel. Man that thing was great. Then I went back to the car to get my camera and wait for Meredith to come in.
In the meantime, the 5k was beginning. I have to criticize the set-up of this. The half marathon had the full two lanes to start, and the thinned-out runners had plenty of room in just one lane, which they guided us into near the end. But the half marathon runners who were unfortunate enough to be finishing as the 5k was starting were not given much courtesy. They really should have put a physical barricade along that early part of the course.
Fortunately for Meredith, she was a bit further back from this mess, and I only saw one runner who really had her finish blocked by the 5k runners. She pretty much had to run down the grassy shoulder, and I felt bad for her. After the 5k runners they had a separate start time for the 5k walk. After they got started, I was excited to see Meredith approaching!
I let her catch her breath and get her medal, cold towel and some water before it was time for the sister post-half photo:
We decided to head back into the school to use the facilities before hitting the road back toward home, and I am glad we did. There was a rather delicious brunch buffet set up in the cafeteria for runners! Once I saw it, I had a vague recollection of reading about it on the website, but they really could have done themselves a favor and reminded runners at packet pick-up or the finish line. We just lucked upon it and were very pleased to enjoy a good plate of food. They had a station to make breakfast sandwiches with english muffins, toast, sausage, bacon, eggs and cheese; then a variety of fruit, yogurt, BBQ sandwiches, carrots, pretzels, cookies, tea, lemonade and even ice cream.
The Double Creek Half Marathon was my thirteenth half marathon, and quite a good one. I was glad to get the PR on the challenging, rolling course, and so happy the weather cooperated in the midst of some sticky hot days lately. They managed the wide variety of races well, with all the runners and bikers. I did have some criticisms of the (lack of) communication both in person and on the website, but my biggest issue (the porta-potty) was beyond their control. It’s certainly not the volunteers’ responsibility to clean those. So – fellow runners – please be better. At least make an effort to clean up after yourself.