Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Pocono Raceway Half Marathon Race Report

Last Saturday I traveled to Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, PA for an inaugural half marathon and 5k race which started and finished on the finish line of the "Tricky Triangle".  I purchased my entry into the race from a coupon which got me registered for $37.  Not bad for a half marathon, and they had morning of packet pickup....and Pocono is only an hour or so from home.  I had been to Pocono to watch Nascar MANY years ago when I was just a little tyke and I was excited to enter the infield and bring back some old memories.

At the time I signed up for this race I hadn't planned to race the St. Lukes half the weekend before, I was just going to pace it.  I needed to get a long run in to prepare for pacing the Run for the Red Pocono Marathon on 5/20 and I didn't know anyone coming up to race so I contemplated skipping out on the race.  I decided to take the opportunity and see if I could maybe get a long run out of the day...a 3 mi warm up, race the half, 2-4 mi cool down.  Sounded like a good idea at the time, but man the "cool down" is always tough after a half marathon!

I woke up bright and early at 04:45, in the car by 05:00.  It was a foggy morning, humid with temps in the low 50's.  By 06:00 I was pulling into the speedway. I had expected to see some cars, some signage, etc but there wasn't a bunch of activity that early.  I had eaten a Powerbar on the way up so I was fueled up and ready to race.  Packet pickup was easy (only a couple of cars in the lot), headed back to the car, hit the bathroom and headed out onto the raceway for a a warmup.  Now this was cool, I warmed up on the freshly pave speedway, yes ON THE SPEEDWAY!  An easy 3 miles at 7:30 or so and I was ready.

The entrance, headed toward the "tunnel".  This was mile 12 of the race.
It was fairly warm and the sun was peeing out.  The race director called us over to the start line and as I sized up the field I realized that the field was nowhere near the +/-1,000 runners that the RD was expecting.  My guess: Broad Street Run (40,000 ppl) and Pittsburgh Marathon being the next day took some of the runners away. 

We lined up and we were off.  It became evident rather quickly that I would be running this race alone.  How far alone I had no idea, I wasn't about to look back!  It was nice the I had the police officer on the bicycle to keep me company (although he didn't say a word until 12.5 miles in!).  The race directors did a great job with traffic control and marking the course.  Everything was easy to follow.  There were also a few bands along the course.  The course wasn't "hilly" per se, but it seemed as though you were either running downhill or uphill, there was no "flatland.

I took it out at about 5:45 - 5:50 pace which felt comfortable.  The sun was now starting to hide behind the clouds and the humidity was building.  "Here's your shot at a potentially solo 13.1 time trial" I thought to myself, and true to form it was.

Just hitting the 4 mile mark, going strong.
The course was basically a big square with the  one leg about 3.5 miles long, then you make the turn and you're nearly 1/2 way.  I was rolling along well until we hit mile 8 and the wind started to kick up.  As we entered a stretch of cornfields the whipping wind caused the bike rider to drop down to his easy ring.  At this point I slowed the pace from 5:45-5:50 to 6:00 to 6:05.  The wind was holding me back and I didn't want to blow myself up for no reason.  Once we hit mile 11 I could see the massive seating area at the race course in the distance, and what I'm assuming was "Long Pond" in the foreground.  Only two more miles, I was more than ready to finish.  We hit the tunnel at mile 12 and then out onto the course I went.  The bike police officer said "congratulations, you were very steady, I was averaging 10.5 - 11 mph the whole time".  I thanked him and thought to myself "boy would it have been nice to have you slow down so I could draft off of you in the wind"!
The last 08. miles took a LLLOOONNGGG time....
 As we rounded the non existent 4th turn I watched the finish line which I could see just about since I entered the raceway.  I had to drop down onto the apron of the course because the camber was bothering me.  I surely wasn't speeding along at the 200+ mph like the Nascar's do, but I was tempted to make some "bbbbrrrrrrmmmm" sounds as I "raced" down the finish stretch at 10.5mph (5:50 pace)!
 And I FINALLY crossed the line.  1:17:40, certainly not a PR and not as fast as last week, but given the conditions and the fact that I ran the whole race solo, I'll take it.  I grabbed some Gatorade and headed back to the car for a cool down.  I STRUGGLED to get 2 miles in and called it a day at 18 miles. 

I got changed and headed back to grab some food.  There was a great spread, some people hanging out and a live band playing.  They had the awards out for you to claim, so I grabbed mine.  I watched some more running finishing and saw Keith, the guy that had parked next to me and I chatted with before the race.  It was his first half marathon and he was nervous as anything, but he finished and did very well.  I congratulated him and took a look at the results.  I was amazed to see that the second place finisher finished in 1:38, TWENTY ONE minutes behind me.  As it turned out only 150 runners finished, so it was a small race.  I hope it comes back next year though, with better timing it could become a big success!  Plus, I have to defend my course record.


  1. Nice work, Chris, a solo effort with wind like that definitely adds some significant challenge, good luck next year!

  2. That sounds like a lot of fun, I might try to squeeze that one into my calendar next year. Nice work on staying so steady with the pace, even without anyone around you. And, of course, nice job on the W! 21 minutes!