Name of the race: Trenton Double Cross Half Marathon
Where: Trenton, NJ
Date: Nov 8, 2014
Time: 8:00 am (actual start 8:20 am)
Distance: 13.1 miles
Terrain: rolling hills, a couple long inclines, mostly flat, over a couple bridge, city streets, and Highway 29
There are often coupons and promo codes. I paid about $85 in October.
Swag: Long-sleeved technical tee
Post-race Food: Big soft pretzel, bananas, water, Gatorade, chocolate milk
Performance:Overall 195/1438; Gender 51/801; Age (35-39) 12/158
Weather: 39 degrees, 58% humidity
My title gives it away. I got a MAJOR PR!!!!! In my prior post I said I wanted PR, but I was expecting a small PR. Instead I completely smashed my old PR by over 3 minutes. It looks like I was totally sandbagging it, but I honestly had no idea and no reason to expect this. According to McMillan my recent race times and training runs all predicted around a 1:50 race. In fact I was doing very similar types of training runs and times that I did before Wineglass last year, when I set my old PR. I have no idea how I pulled this off, except I know that the colder than expected temperature really helped.
Up until Saturday, the fall racing season was a bit lackluster for me. I scoured the Running in the USA for a late fall half where I could shoot for a PR. My criteria were that it had to be in the late fall (to give myself more time for training), flat or downhill, and fairly close to where we live in New Jersey. Ben nixed the Seacoast Half Marathon because the drive would have been rather long for us for this time of year (work-related reasons). Then I found the Trenton Half, which is a pretty new half marathon. It’s in its third year. I hadn’t heard of it before and did a bit of research. I liked what I found:
It was in Trenton, which is a bit more than an hour away from our home. Plus because of constant promotions and coupons they have, I could register for a decent price.
Normally we would have gotten a hotel room close to the race, so that we wouldn’t have to wake up early. Because of the dog (we could have found a dog-friendly hotel, but Bandit would not have taken kindly to being left alone in a strange hotel room) we decided to stay at home and drive in the morning of. We woke up at 4:30 am. I drank some coffee and had some breakfast (two slices of cinnamon raisin toast with Nutella). The forecast said that the temperature was going to be 39 degrees. Much colder than the 50 degrees that I had anticipated. Perfect. I love racing in cold (but not too cold) temps; 40 degrees is about as cold as I want to go. As always I forget what I like wearing in different temps (I should really write this down somewhere). Runner’s World has this helpful guide on what to wear at different temperatures, so based on their suggestion (and Ben’s confirmation) I wore a t-shirt and shorts. I wore sweat pants and a jacket over it to wear until I checked in a race bag, and brought a throwaway sweat shirt to wear after I checked in a bag.
We left at
dark o’clock 5:30 am to drive to Trenton. I wanted to get into the parking lots by 7 am because they close by 7:15. Plus the race organizers sent us emails warning us that parts of surrounding streets and highways would be shut down at 6 am for the race. I wanted to ensure that I had plenty of time to deal with potential traffic jams, detours, and getting lost (a real possibility for me). The drive was uneventful because the directions given by the race organizers were very clear. We parked for free in one of the lots before 7 am and then had what felt like a long walk to the start line (again, the race organizers told us that there was a 10 min walk from the parking lot to the start line). We found the start area by following a bunch of racers (the volunteers at the parking lot did not know where the start line was). We had plenty of time to use the facilities, do package pick-up and bag check, and settle in. There were plenty of port-o-lets so there was a very short wait time. The start line was right outside the stadium in Arm & Hammer Park. There was a huge blow-up arch for the start line (which at one point deflated and fell over, male runners joked, “It happens to all us.”) and corrals, where you seed yourself. We placed ourselves in the 8 min corral and proceeded to wait.
In the cold.
The race was supposed to start at 8 am, but they delayed it by more than 20 mins (they said they were checking the course). I was really glad that I was wearing a throwaway sweatshirt because while I would have withstood the cold for 15 mins, the 30+ mins would have been too much for me and I would have been truly miserable. The sweatshirt made the waiting tolerable. In order to entertain us, the race organizers had the drum and fife corps play. I noticed them earlier in their Revolutionary War outfits and thought it was cool. I enjoyed the first few minutes of their playing, but soon grew weary of the ceaseless music because of the screeching fife. All of the runners became impatient and we were ready to run!
Finally the rifle (or musket) fired, and we were off! Sort of. The first couple hundred feet, all of the runners (including the 5K and 10K runners) were funneled into a narrow path. We jogged until the path widened and dumped us onto an on-ramp for the (closed) highway.
The plan was that I was going to do a negative split by running the first couple of miles at 8:30 pace and then pick it up (exact times depending upon how I felt). Instead I did this:
- 7:21 (for .1)
My first mile was faster than I had planned and then apparently I decided that I was going to go ahead and keep running at (for me) break neck speed. Ben was pacing me and he reported how fast was I going (as a tacit way of begging me to not run too quickly and then break badly). I felt good and the paces didn’t feel too fast. My hands were freezing cold, so I pulled the arms of the sweatshirt to keep them warmer. By a mile and half, my hands felt warmer, so I decided to take off the sweatshirt and throw it away. Forty degrees is the absolute coldest that I’ll run without gloves. Although I was fine without a pair, I think I would have preferred wearing them. I kept running as fast as I thought I should be running based upon how I felt. Ben was concerned I was going too fast, but it felt good and not too hard.
At the halfway mark I felt like I was running hard, but I didn’t feel tired, which is exactly how I want to feel in the middle of a half. I’m such a different runner when I’m running compared to when I’m training. I thought to myself how had this been a training run, I would have been dying to keep up a 8:15 pace for 5 miles, but I could blast way several sub-8:10 miles for a race.
The elevation map for Trenton Half shows it to be pretty flat, but it’s slightly deceptive. There are several very small rolling hills (which I like because it keeps it interesting), but there are a few somewhat longish sustained inclines (albeit not very high). The first “big” incline is the on-ramp onto Highway 29. There’s another incline somewhere between Mile 3 and 4. The biggest sustained climb was just after Mile 8, where the course is in a park. But most of the course is quite flat because you’re running on Highway 29.
I enjoyed running the Trenton course. It’s rather pretty, especially this time of year with the fall colors. The organizers did a great job of having the course go through Trenton’s highlights. We had long lovely views of the river and the trees with their gorgeous bright orange and yellow leaves from the highway. We even got to run through some picturesque neighborhoods with pretty brick townhouses. I saw my favorite race sign at around Mile 3.5. There was a row of people holding mugs and a sign that said, “Finish Line (arrow straight ahead) 9 miles. Irish coffee (arrow pointing to the right) 9 feet).” Man, Baileys Irish coffee sounded good right then. A couple bands played music to entertain us.
We ran across two bridges (surprisingly flat – I’m used to climbing on bridges), including the famous Trenton Makes Bridge. Trenton’s slogan is Trenton Makes, the World Takes. It’s very catchy, but I have no idea what Trenton makes and what we’re taking. It’s a great slogan if Trenton were a famous manufacturing city, such as Pittsburgh or even Detroit, but honestly it left us puzzled. The bridge had fantastic views of the river and less fantastic grates that we had to run over. I slowed a bit because I didn’t want to fall on the grate.
By crossing the bridge, we were now in Pennsylvania.We ran a bit more than a mile in PA before crossing another bridge to go back into NJ. That bridge had more grates that we were loathed to run on. Thankfully we noticed that there was a pedestrian walkway, so we ran on that instead.
The longest sustained climb was when we were entering a park. I did my best to sustain speed and longed for exiting the park because I knew I would love the quick run down. Soon it was Mile 10. This is the part of a half that’s the hardest for me. Most of the race is done, but I still have a sizeable amount left. I need to hold it together for another three miles. I was tired, but I plowed on. Miles 12 and 13 I definitely slowed down, but I told myself to keep running hard a little longer and try to not go slower than 8:15. I went 8:17 for Mile 13, but I was faster than that for Mile 12, so averaged together I made it. A woman wearing a tri kit was ahead of me and I used her as a pace bunny.
There was one big bend before we entered the stadium for the finish line. A crowd of spectators cheered us. I knew I was just about done and in for a big PR thanks to Ben’s constant feedback of how I was doing. The finish for the Trenton half is one of the coolest finishes that I’ve ever experienced. We ran around the outfield and ran toward the home plate for the finish line. As you’re running toward home, there’s a camera and a large screen that displays your run down so you can see yourself. Ben pointed this out, but I only had enough energy to keep running straight ahead.
I jumped up in the air to cross the finish line. There!
I couldn’t believe it. Out of nowhere, a huge PR. Although tired, I was ecstatic. A few other racers came up to Ben right after we crossed to thank him. Apparently I wasn’t the only person who was relying on him as a pacer. As the miles were ticking down, Ben kept up a constant stream of information of distance, pace, and time. The lady in the tri kit who was behind us loved the info that Ben gave and used it to motivate her. She needed a 1:49 to get guaranteed entry to the NYC Marathon; she was well under. We got our post-race food and sat in the stadium, munched on our pretzels while watching other happy finishers. Aside from a slight detour to get to the detour to go around the closed roads, the drive back home was a breeze.
I think the Trenton Half (minus the late start and screeching fife) is a great race. The course is pretty and the finish is really neat. It’s definitely a half that you should do if you’re in the area.