Name of the race: Run for the Red Poconos Half
Where: Pocono Summit, PA
Date: May 20, 2018
Time: 7:00 am
Distance: 13.1 miles
Terrain: Net downhill with rolling hills, point-to-point course
Entry fee: $75 Through March 31, then $90
Post-race Food: Orange slices, sandwiches, water, & Gatorade
Swag: Technical t shirt, free race photo of you at the finish line
Performance: Overall: 41/257; Gender: 14/155; Age (40-49): 4/39
Weather: 63 degrees, 100% humidity, 12 mph tailwind
Fresh off a huge PR and successful BQ at CIM, I was brimming with ambitious race goals for Spring 2018. BRING IT ON!!!!!!
Well, life smacked me down, but it wasn’t a knock out. Leah adjusted my training to work with my new life/work schedule and we did the best we could. It wasn’t ideal, but I’ve always been a fan of the adage, “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.” Essentially we treated this as a long aerobic base building with some tempo and speed work.
I wanted Run for the Red Poconos Half to be the big scary spring goal race, where I would try to break 1:40. Unfortunately there were two big factors against me: 1) I didn’t have a 1:40 HM training cycle (it was a solid training cycle, but not a 1:40 one), and 2) wretchedly warm weather and humidity. Normally when I see that a race isn’t shaping up the way I had planned, I scrap racing plans and treat it as a hard workout. Because I didn’t do as many races as I normally do, I decided I still wanted to race this, knowing full well that it wasn’t going to be an absolute great race. I wanted to have a good to great race for the race conditions that I had.
Serendipitously we booked a house on AirBnB that was literally on the course route, located at Mile 10. We decided that Ben and Bandit would wait for me outside the house and then they would run with me (Bandit was living up to her name) to the finish line. Another nice thing about having the house there was that I got to be even more familiar with the course route. Having done the race twice before, I know the route pretty well, but staying along the route gave me a chance to really learn the small details.
Despite being told over and over again that there should be nothing new for race day, I wore the incredibly precious Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% for this race. I won’t say much about the shoes in this post, but there will be a review coming soon. But if you can’t wait to read what I have to say, well, my verdict is: Go buy them if you can find them.
The warm air and mugginess made running uncomfortable, but the excitement of the race and the fancy shoes made the race more tolerable. My original plan was to run around 8:00 for the first 5 fairly flat/rolling hills miles. The next five were downhill, so I was going to coast at 7:30. Miles 11 and 12 were once again rolling hills with a slight incline, 7:45 was the target. The final mile was pure downhill, so I was going to kick and fly.
How did I do?
Well, it wasn’t terrible.
I did average 8:00 for the first five miles. The next five were between 7:35 and 7:50. Slower than I would have liked. It was really warm and uncomfortable and despite the downhill, running sucked. I could feel like myself flagging at Mile 9. I didn’t want to run anymore, but the thought of Ben and Bandit waiting for me cheered me immensely. Every time I thought about slowing down (every sec), I reminded myself that they were waiting for me.
I was able to use my superior knowledge of the course to my advantage at one point in the course. There’s a section where the course snakes. To the run the tangent, you actually need to run opposite of the side that you would normally take to run the tangent. So while just about everyone began veering toward the right, I made my way left and was rewarded a short while later with being in the correct place for the next turn.
I could hear Bandit long before I could see her. As usual, our race-loving dog was upset that she was forced to watch when all she really wanted to do was race everyone to the finish line. From the sideline, she trashbarked the runners. Ben kept an eye out for me. I waved. As I ran by, Ben finally let Bandit join the race. She was overjoyed. Not only at seeing me, but finally being able to race and show everyone who’s boss.
I grabbed some water at the Mile 10 aid station. After taking a sip and dumping water over my head, I felt better and kept running. Bandit was terribly annoyed that Ben and I were so slow because she had to beat all the runners. As we slowly picked off runners, she trashbarked at them as we passed them by.
One guy wailed, “I know! I know! I know you’re faster than me.”
Several runners complimented Bandit on how beautifully she ran with us and remarked that they were amazed that she could keep up. Ben answered, “Actually we’re holding her back. She can run a lot faster. This is nothing.”
Miles 11 and 12, I ran 8:00 pace. Not what I wanted, but I was grateful that I wasn’t crawling at a much slower pace. For the final mile, I picked up the pace to 7:34 and for the last .1 I was able to summon enough strength to kick (6:46). Ben and Bandit ran with me until the last quarter mile or so, where they pulled off to the side, so they wouldn’t cross the finish line. I met up with them in the post-race finish area.
My final time was 1:42:58. I eked out a 29-sec PR. I’ll take it.
It was a difficult race because of the conditions, but this is the best that I’ve ever done in such warm humid conditions.
As usual, the race organization at Run for the Red was great. Once again, thanks for the experience and memories. It’ll probably be a while until I can do this race again. Because of my new position, certain weekends are locked up because of work and the 3rd week of May is one of them. I’m sad at the prospect of missing this race in the future, but I’m grateful that I got to have three wonderful races at Run for the Red while I could.