Monday, October 21, 2013

Runners World Half Festival Race Report

The second annual Runners World Half Festival is in the books.  We're so lucky to live just minutes away from Runners World and their parent company, Rodale.  We're even luckier that Runners World has decided to "throw" this annual festival of running which includes a weekend packed with all things running (seminars, dog runs, kids runs, olympic athletes, etc) and a 5k, 10k and half marathon which showcase the city of Bethlehem.

Lauren was out of town, so that basically meant I'd spend most of my weekend at the festival.  This year I again organized the pace groups for the half marathon and I was involved with two seminars, manning the pacing booth and of course running three races (dubbed the Hat Trick) over the two day period.  We were treated to some great weather with sunny skies and temps in the low 40's for both days.

Friday after work I headed over to the expo and helped out with the kids run.  There was a competitive kids mile and my job was important...hold the finisher tape and get the names and schools of the top 3 male and female finishers so they could be presented their awards (Runners World made donations to each of their schools).  Budd Coates and I rehearsed our tape holding duties as I remarked that I had never touched or broken the tape in a race before.  Foreshadowing of things to come?  Some of those kids were FAST too, first place finisher was 5:39 for the mile!
The Friday night "FAQ" seminar with Bart (that's me on the right).
Saturday we woke up bright and early to temps in the 30's....BBRRR.  I was running the Hat Trick in which I had finished 5th overall last year.  I hadn't thought too much about my strategy or my goals for that matter.  I was coming off about 4 weeks of minimal running, but lots of riding and some tough workouts.  I had no idea if my legs would hold up, especially over 22 miles and 2 days of racing.

After a short warm up we started off the 5k and I settled in the top 15 or so.  As we hit the Fahy Bridge for the first time and ascended into Bethlehem I found myself into the top 5 overall.  One guy (Seth) was pretty far off the front, but by the first mile marker I was in third just off of second.  First mile was 5:34 and felt fairly comfortable.  The next mile basically was slightly downhill back to the start area.  It was so awesome on the bridge seeing the huge crowd of 5k runners coming the other direction.  Coming off the bridge I had worked my way up to Seth thinking he was doing the Hat Trick and just hanging back, saving himself and he'd out kick me for the win.  We went through mile 2 at 5:16 and it was a cat and mouse game.  As we climbed Daley Ave I decided to put a surge in.  I didn't look  back until we entered the Sands Casino lot about a half mile from the finish, but then I saw I had formed a gap and I just pushed it in from there.  Last mile was 5:13, good enough for the win in 16:40 and ironically my first time breaking the tape (held by none other than Budd Coates)!   I've never negative split a 5k before, guess that's the way to run them.
First time breaking the tape!
I had run much harder than I anticipated, but when you have the opportunity to win you've gotta take it!!  Did a cool down run and tried to stay warm and loose for the next hour before the start of the 10k.   We lined up for the 10k and I saw many familiar faces.  Funny thing is, they had 1400 registered for the Hat Trick!!  And speaking of the Hat Trick, courtesy of my win in the 5k I was now leading the series....pressure's on!

We took off and I settled in 10th or so.  There was one runner well off the front.  My legs didn't feel too bad.  I hit the first mile at 6:03 in 5th or 6th.  As I loosened up I started to feel better.  As we headed across the bridge toward Main Street in Bethlehem we clicked off mile 2, 5:41.  By mile three I had worked my way into 2nd overall, hitting the mostly uphill mile 3 at 5:42.  The legs were hurting now and I started to wonder if I could make it another 5k and hold on to 2nd.  The next two miles were flat to downhill and I hit 5:42 and 5:39.  As we got close to the finish area the crowd support was great.  I crossed the line at 35:56 and held my lead in the Hat Trick (the guy that won was just there to race the 10k).

Headed home and showered then back to the expo to hang out and for my 2:30 seminar.  The day just flew by seeing so many familiar faces and catching up with old friends. I was happy to fall into bed, anxious to rest up and see what my body had left for the half.

Got there nice and early on race day and brought some last minute stuff to the pacers then checked my bag.  Another cool, sunny AM which was perfect for racing.  I was sore, but the adrenaline kept me going.  As the gun went off I tried to see where the rest of the Hat Trick runners were.  I had spend most of the weekend battling Justin and we started off the half chatting and trying to figure out who else was running the Hat Trick.  I started conservatively, taking it easy on the downhills to save my legs for the downhills in the last few miles of the race.  I wasn't worried about overall position in the half, just preserving a good overall finish.  I was hitting 6:05's for just about each mile except for 4 and 6 which had some elevation, but I wasn't shaking Justin!
About 6 miles in, not feeling too bad right here...
He held strong right behind me and forced me to keep my legs moving even when they didn't want to.  I saw Budd up ahead with about 5 miles to go and I started up the effort.  I started hitting splits in the high 5's, hoping that Justin would fade back, but he didn't.  I had been running with a young guy who was doing his first half marathon, we hooked up about 4 miles in and he said he was going to push the last few miles, so I described the course as we went and told him what to look for in the closing miles.  As I upped my effort so did he, except for the fact that his legs responded.
I may be smiling at mile 7 but he gets the last laugh!
I watched my "running partner" take off, slowly putting ground on me and picking off runners ahead of us.  He would go on to finish 3rd overall, congrats to him for a great 1st half marathon!  I was holding on to the high 5 minute splits and as we hit the 12th mile marker Justin passed me and told me to stick to his shoulder.  I was REALLY hoping to cruise in that last mile, but it wasn't to be.  I stuck to him like glue and we even caught and passed Budd as we entered the Sands Casino.  We crossed the line at 1:19:52 or so, Justin a few steps ahead.  Turned out to be a great race, seeing so many friends out there running and spectating, great weather and some great competition.

I was lucky enough to win the overall in the Hat Trick in a combined 5k / 10k / half marathon time of 2:12 for 22+ miles.  I was also lucky enough to pick up some cool hardware!

I'm a sore dude today, but I'll tell you what, I"m pretty excited for the Hat Trick at the Runners World Heartbreak Hill Festival in June 2014!  Check it out for yourself at  You run down and up Heartbreak Hill!  

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