I should preface this recap by saying that I don’t do hills, and I knew going into this race that it would be hilly. I knew enough about Morristown and its surrounding area to know that there was virtually no way it would be an easy race. For many years, I’ve seen ads for this racing company’s half marathons (Super Hero Racing), and thought to myself that I would not be able to handle 13.1 miles of hills.
But when I signed up for this race, I thought, hey, I can do 4 miles of hills.
Turns out, I was right…. with the added catch that, two the hills ended up being a bit more steep than I even expected. There was a lot of heavy breathing involved. Panting, even. And some fast walking.
Again, I’m not a hill person. If you’ve been reading my blog for a bit, you probably get the gist of my kind of running: casual. I am the definition of casual runner: I don’t do things like “tempo runs” or “hill repeats” or anything like that. When I train for a half marathon, I basically set up a plan of how long my long run has to be that week, and run casually the rest of the week. When I am not training for a half marathon or sprint tri, I basically just run what I feel – usually a couple of days of 3 to 5 mi runs, nothing crazy. I usually run 3 or 4 days out of the week. That is my story, and I’m stickin’ to it. It keeps running enjoyable for me, and not a chore or requirement. I do just enough that I keep up my endurance, and that I do feel slight guilt if I take too many days off.
Okay, back to the race recap, now that I’ve spent long enough “justifying” my hatred of anything remotely hilly 😉
This race started at 11 AM, and was about a half hour north of where I live. I wasn’t sure if she had signed up, but turns out my mom would be joining me! I warned her I thought it was hilly… hehe… little did we know!
We got to Morristown early. Like way too early. I am a nervous nelly and want to make sure I am not late, and so instead end up getting places that I’ve never been with much, much more time than I need. We had something in the neighborhood of 1 hour and 45 minutes to kill when we arrived. Parking was super easy: there was a parking deck right across from the start, so we parked, grabbed our packets, and headed back to the car. I definitely laid my seat back and took a mini nap.
At about 10:30, we got out, hit the port-o-potties, and warmed our bodies up walking around. There were tons of port-o-potties for the amount of people – always love that! It looks like there ended up being about 900 participants, and looking at the results, plenty of all speeds. I am somewhat cautious signing up for races I’ve not done before, checking to make sure there will be lots of people in the 10-11-12 minute mile paces. There were even a fair amount of racers that ended up in the 13-14-15 range, so hopefully no one felt alone!
The race start was uneventful, and after some shuffling due to crowding, we crossed the start mat and off we went! The beginning of the race was promising: flatish, if even a bit downhill to start. I hit the first mile at about 10 minute pace and feeling like I could crush 4 miles, however, that changed pretty quickly. There was a tiny bump after mile 1, but at 1.5 we hit a large hill. By large, I mean, I started to jog it, but then realized I would probably make more progress by opening up my stride and fast-walking instead.
By the time I got to the top, I was really looking forward to a downhill in return. My legs were starting to feel tired already, but I had to keep trucking. I gave up my thoughts of keeping 10 minute mile pace, and just kept moving along. Unfortunately, there was not a significant downhill just yet, just another small rolling hill to come! After the roller, we did get a nice downhill and a water stop. The course came down around what seemed to be a park at mile 2ish, but by 2.5 …. dun dun dun… ANOTHER huge hill, this one bigger than the first!
This hill was probably the largest hill I’ve run in a race. I laughed to myself as I slowed to a fast walk pace, like many of the folks around me. I wasn’t even looking at my watch at this point, figuring I would just do the best I could. At the top, we were not quite at mile 3 yet, but at least it was flat!! My legs were feeling toasted, but as long as there were no more big hills, I felt like I could get some more steam out of them.
I hit mile 3 and started to coast more. My legs had shaken off the hill for the most part, and were feeling pretty good to go by 3.5. We rounded one of the last corners at about 3.75, only to come up on another incline. This one was small, thankfully, but honestly it was the last thing I wanted to see at almost the end of the race!
One more turn and the finish line was in sight. I briefly passed a mom and her adorable daughter, who must have been 4 or 5, and honestly thought I might have a chance of finishing ahead. As I passed them, I heard the mom tell her daughter: “okay, now you can run as fast as you want!” Which is super cute… except I’m pretty sure any pictures that will exist of my finish will be of me getting passed by a 5 year old. DAMNIT!
This is where I get both happy, and a little sad. I crossed the finish line with 44:01 on the clock, thinking, OH GOOD! I must be just under 44 officially, since it definitely took a few seconds to get across the start. My watch told a different tale, in the mid-43’s.
I was disappointed to find out, when official times went up, there was no chip time. Official time agreed with the clock time, which is unfortunate, because we had chips, and those of us at the back of the pack definitely could have used those couple of seconds back.
None the less, my 4 mile PR will stand at an “official” 44:01 – perfect 11 minute mile pace, but in my heart (LOL) I know that I came in juuuuuuust under 11’s. Which my heart obviously likes to hear 🙂 I am super happy with my time either way – not only is it a PR because I’ve never raced 4 miles before, but this course was incredibly challenging for me. I now feel darn confident that on a less hilly course, I could absolutely hit 43 or under.
After my finish, I turned around to wait for my momma, who must have been cursing me to the high heavens for talking her into a race with these hills! When she rounded the corner, I cheered my face off for her.
She had, as usual, talked herself down before the race. “Well, I will take about an hour to finish so I hope I am not alone” – that sort of stuff. I knew she wouldn’t take that long – and of course, she didn’t. She came in under 50 minutes!!!! Officially, she was at 48:49, 12:12/mi. Which is, of course, far quicker than she had predicted. Oh, mom. One day she will know her ability and awesomeness 🙂
We were both very proud of our efforts, and happy with the race overall. Great participants, crowd, and organization. Nice touch: at the end with the usual bagels and bananas, there were a couple of HUGE jars of peanut butter out. Love that! I’m not sure if I will run this race again, since usually it is much colder in February and the hills were pretty rough, but it was a super experience none the less, and a great way to step out of the box of my usual races.
Oh, and just so you know… my spring race schedule continues to shape up – I got into the Spring Lake 5 again! This is a Jersey Shore, kick-off-to-summer staple, that closes up within a few hours of its opening every year. Added bonus? My mom, best friend, and another friend got in – so we will be a crew of 4 this year!
How do you feel about running hills?
Do you have a favorite winter race?