Friday, May 3, 2013

St. Lukes Half Marathon & Wheelman Cup race reports

Last weekend was one of my favorite local events.  The St. Luke's Half Marathon is probably the largest single day event in the Lehigh Valley.  There are several things that make it special to me.  First and foremost, being a board member and being involved with the race planning is very rewarding, seeing an event with 4,000 runners be planned and run by a completely volunteer run operation is awesome.  Second, this race raises a lot of money for local youth running....cross country and track team uniforms, free kids races, grants and scholarships are all funded by this event.  Third, I direct the pace groups for this race, typically have myself as a back up in the event that one of our pacers is injured at the last moment.  It's very rewarding to see runners meet and exceed their goals through use of pace groups.  And lastly, since no one has gotten injured the last two years I've been able to run the race myself!

Here's how the weekend went.  On Saturday morning I got to the expo bright and early to set up the pacer booth / table.  Then at 9:00 I got my microphone on and did my first live radio broadcast on ESPNLV!  Then I spent the day talking to old friends and meeting new ones.

We were treated to an incredible day for race day.  Temps were in the upper 40's with bright sunshine.  Lauren was pacing the 1:45 group so we gathered our stuff and headed to the race.  I had no real goal, and no idea how the legs would respond to half marathon pace...the two weeks after Boston had been rough and were all about recovery, not building speed!
Just before the race started off we observed a moment of silence for Boston.  It gave me goosebumps, it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop!  I wanted to show my support as well, so I proudly sported a black ribbon and red sox.
The race takes off with a long, refreshing downhill first mile.  I caught up with Kathleen and ran with her for a while.  I had no real goals, but as we hit the first mile marker at 6:05 or so I saw a large pack in front of me and a gap growing so I decided to slowly bridge the gap.

About 4 miles into the race.
The best part of the race is from mile 2 to mile 6.5 which is an out and back section.  It is so much fun to cheer for everyone coming the other way, see the huge crowds and harness their energy.  I was slowly picking runners off at this point.

We hit the turn around at mile 4.5 or so and I had made my way into a nice pack.  I was probably sitting in about 12th overall or so at that point.  I was consistently clicking off 5:45-5:50 miles and not feeling that badly, but I was convinced that I was the weakest link in our group and that my Boston legs from 13 days prior would rear their ugly head.
We ran as a pack like this for about 4 miles, it was fun!
 All of the sudden we hit the 9th mile and I had a little gap over our group.  My times were still just slightly under 6:00 at that point, so I decided I'd gut it out and see what I could hold on to.  There was a runner off in front of me in the distance and I just focused on him, trying to calculate the gap and see if I was catching him.  The crowds along the street were awesome, cheering everyone along and giving me that little extra bit of encouragement and energy that I needed.  The last half mile was tough, I let myself look back to see how much of a gap I had which turned out to be a good thing, because they were close enough to keep me running scared!
Entering the stadium, only 1/4 mile to go!
 I hit the line in 1:17:33, good enough for 9th overall and first in the 35-39 age group!  I must have hung around the finish line for a half hour, checking in on the pacers and congratulating friends.  We grabbed a bite to eat and headed home.

No rest for the weary for this guy though, I had to pack the bike and head over to the Wheelman Cup, a friendly crit competition against all of the local bike teams.  We needed bodies, so I agreed to subject myself to even more pain (hey, I need the bike miles for my upcoming 100+ mile triathlon weekend).

We had eight of us and the goal was to score as many points as possible with points available every third lap.
Great team shot!
 My legs were protesting and clearly SHOT, but I wouldn't listen to them!  I got in position for a great lead out on the double points half way sprint, and after I peeled off Joe delivered Jon for the sprint win.
 On the next sprint I covered an attempt to go off the front about with about half a mile to go and wound up with a gap of my own.  I managed to hold it (above, I'm in 2nd) and score some points!  The legs really protested after that, cramping to prove their point!
All in all it was a fun day and I'm blessed to have some great teammates and friends in the bike world.  Road racing definitely isn't my forte, but it is good fun!

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