Wednesday, May 2, 2012

St. Lukes Half Marathon Race Report

The St. Lukes Half Marathon (and 5K) is the largest and longest standing race in the Lehigh Valley.  Every year close to 6000 runners take part in this event.  The coolest part of it, it's a completely volunteer run event, directed by the Lehigh Valley Road Runners (which I am a proud member of the Board of Directors).  Proceeds from this event go directly back to the community in the form of support for youth, uniforms for teams, kids runs, etc.  If you are a runner in the Lehigh Valley, more likely than not you're involved in some aspect of this event.

I've paced this race at various goal times for the past 5 or 6 years and the past three years I've organized and lead the Garmin Pace Groups.  This year my brother wanted to step in and give pacing a shot, so I took the opportunity to race.  So after a 5 mile shakeout run on Saturday AM, I headed to the expo to set up and work the Garmin Pace Team Booth (along side my friends from Runners World who were handing out information about their fall 1/2 marathon festival which may take over as THE largest race in the Lehigh Valley, you should consider doing it...).  Working expos at the pace table is just a great experience.  It is so rewarding to help runners calm their pre-race nerves, come up with a game plan and get them on their way to meeting their goals.  This year the pacers also did a seminar about pacing and included a course talk.  It was well attended and overall seemed like a valuable experience for those in attendance.  

Lauren and the kids were not home when I finished up at the expo so I sensed the opportunity to get my first 50+ mile ride in the log books.  Not the smartest thing to do 12 hours before racing a half marathon, but I had not ridden anywhere near 50 miles since last fall and I only have about three weeks of training left before my REV3 Quassy double, so I've gotta take advantage of any opportunity I get.  I met up with a few of my Lamprey Cycling teammates and hit the road.  51 miles @ 18mph w/ 2500' of climbing later I rolled back into the driveway.

Now I've run a half marathon off of a 56 mile bike ride many times, so I knew it wasn't going to kill me, but factor in having no clue where my legs were after Boston 13 days ago, I REALLY had no idea what to expect.  My plan was to do as I usually do....stay as comfortable as possible early on, pic some solid runners to pace off of, throw it out there and give it my all.....

We were treated to an INCREDIBLE morning.  Cool temps to start off the day (high 30's) and temps in the low 40's to start.  A slight breeze and abundant sunshine capped off the morning.  I was trying to support the pace team, holding signs, passing out pace bracelets, etc in the gym so I didn't get much time to "think" about my plan.  I did manage to get some stretching in before we headed out to the start line.
Lauren paced the 1:45 group and had a blast, here we are pre-race. (No, that's not my hand over top of her head) (Photo credit to John Hoffman

I got a short warmup jog in, then seeded myself in the second row.  This race has a fast first 6 miles or so, then you hit a good climb and by mile 8 your into the Parkway which is a cinder path with some short, stinging climbs.  The gun went off and I just tucked in.  My legs felt surprisingly good considering what I had put them through just 12 hours ago.  By the 3rd mile we were strung out pretty well and I had settled into the top 15.
Mile 3 on MLK Blvd.
So far my average pace was in the 5:40-5:45 range which didn't feel too bad, but I had no idea how longs my legs would hold on.  I hit the turn around at about 4 miles in and got a good check on where I was in relation to the runners around me.  There was a lead group of four runners with a good sized lead then it was broken up from there.  The coolest part about this stretch (and the race for that matter) is the next +/- 2 miles where you can see all the runners coming at you.  Being a local race it was great to see so many familiar faces, hear the cheers and see all of the pace groups come by.  It ALMOST made me forget that my legs were starting to revolt!
About six miles into the race on MLK Blvd.  Starting to work a little harder here.
Since I had no time goals, I wasn't really worried about my splits or what pace I was running, I was running totally by feel.  I knew the "new" hill that was added was coming up after I made the turn off of MLK.  I tried to maintain a steady effort, but man did that thing HURT.  I've run it enough times that I knew how to break it down into smaller pieces and get my way to the top....and the nice downhill that ensued!  Through the half I was averaging 5:45 or so, not bad, but the hill ALMOST made me pack it in and drive it home, the legs had no "zip" to them anymore and there was no crowd to keep me preoccupied. 

As we came down the downhill and headed through the last mile of the Superbowl 10K course I saw that I was gaining on the two runners ahead of me and suddenly the pain wasn't quite so bad.  We entered the gravel path at the Clubhouse at mile 8 and I felt like I stepped in tar, it wasn't quite as easy to run and maintain effort...and  the couple of little hills didn't help!  By the time we reached the covered bridge at 8.5 and started heading home I had caught and started to run with the group of two in front of me.  We were running 8, 9 and 10 overall.  It felt like we were keeping pace from an effort standpoint, but the watch read differently....6:04, 6:05, etc.  One guy fell off and the guy I was running with started to "chat" (if that's what you want to call it at 6:00 pace).  He was a nice guy and we really helped keep each other honest and work together for the last 4 miles.  He was familiar with the course as well, which was a great bonus.
Exiting the Parkway, about 2.5 miles to go. (Photo credit Rob Gallagher)
 Just before we exited the Parkway someone came from behind and passed us.  He was running a great race and sparked some speed in my now running partner...who went with him.  I exited the Parkway solo in 10th, but only a few steps behind the other guy.  Our miles were still in the 6-6:05 range which was all I could muster.  I didn't look back the whole race, but I could hear that there was at least one runner not too far back (+/- 30 seconds) from the cheers in the crowd.  We hit mile 12 and my partner and I tried to pick it up.  As we entered the track for the final 0.2 miles I said "go ahead man, go get'm, you look good".  So off he ran as I cruised in (we averaged 5:55 for the last 1.1mi).

I was glad to be done and so were my legs.  We were blessed with an incredible AM.  I had dressed perfectly, although I probably would have survived without the arm warmers.  I grabbed a medal, congratulated everyone around me (first female was +/-45 sec behind me) and headed over to cheer people in.  I watched our pacers come in and I admired how well they did and how large of a group they had at the point in the race.

So I ended up 10th overall in 1:17:13, 2nd in the 35-39 AG.  It turns out that "my partner" that I let go at the end had won my AG, beating me by 4 seconds, Kudos to him!  It seemed to be a day of PR's for many people which was awesome.  It's the fastest time that I've run at this race, but I haven't raced it in MANY years, I typically just pace it.  Considering my early run and late ride the day before, I'm happy with my finish.  I think I could have easily run 90seconds or more faster on fresher legs, but hey, I really needed that bike ride if I'm going to survive the Quassy Double in four short weeks!

Lauren had a blast, finished under goal and met some really good people.  My first time pacers really kicked some butt as well.  My sister in law nailed a big PR.  Overall it was a successful weekend .

Thanks for reading and Run Happy!


  1. Congrats on a great race!

    My mom was out there running with you - it was her first half marathon!

  2. Sounds like you all had much better weather than we did out in Big Sur. That must have been a relief after how bad Boston was...

    From what I've heard about the course, that's a really solid time, especially considering that you were doing it the day after a 50 mile ride. Nice work!