Monday, March 19, 2012

Tobacco Road Half Marathon Race Report


After running poorly at the Miami Half Marathon in January, I set out to run the Tobacco Trail Half Marathon right.  Running the race correctly wouldn't change the total debacle of Miami, but it would make me feel better about future races.  The running portion of my training was about the same, but I focus more on improving my core and the stability of my legs.  I still felt confident in my ability to handle the distance, but with the on set of allergy season, breathing on race day became a worry.

Major Differences from Miami:

  • Tobacco Road is a home Town Race, so no travel.
  • I knew the course very well and had trained on most of it.
  • Hydration -- Dehydration kick the heck out me in Miami, and I was determined to avoid it.  Enter Nuun.
  • Shoe Change:  I moved from Saucony Triumph 9's to Asics Fortitude 5's for more structure and a move away from the new lower 8mm heal to toe offset. 
  • Out and Back course -- I love Out & Back courses.

  • Allergies & other breathing issues
  •  Doubts from Miami
  • Narrow Out & Back course -- while I love an Out & Back course this one is on a narrow trail, which meant that miles six, seven, and eight would be cramped.  
  • Cranky Achilles 
This gives you an idea of how narrow the trail is at some points.

I scouted the parking area the day before, which I am glad about because the area where the offsite parking and shuttle bus loading area were located  in an area with lot's of new roads that my GPS didn't have (because I haven't updated it since I bought it last year).  After driving off of the map, I was glad that I had scouted things out.  I also spent the day drinking water like it was going out of style, which I would be thankful for once the race started.  The night before the race, we had major thunderstorms roll through, which didn't let up until nearly 4am.  The storm was a mixed bag for me because the brought some cooler temperature and reduced the pollen in the air, but it also slowed down the course, since most of the race was run on compacted gravel trail.  Also, I meant that the already tight quarters of the Tobacco Trail would be even more difficult to negotiate because running on the sides of trail would be more difficult.  Passing would be much more difficult, especially for someone my size.


The start of the race was on a down hill, which immediately went into a good climb leading out of the USA Baseball Training complex.  I am not sure if it was because of footing concerns (downhill, wet, and dark) or just a bottle neck, but the start of the race seemed to go at a slow crawl, which cost me some time.  I didn't want to expend energy needlessly trying to weave my way through the crowd, so I just  held back for the wider streets outside of the baseball complex.  Despite the slow start, I knew two things by the first half mile. 
  1. I was really glad that I hydrated well the day before and was drinking Nuun during the race. 
  2.  I was going to PR the race barring an injury on the course.    
Downhill damp start in the dark

It may seem arrogant to say that I knew I would PR within the first half mile, but none of my recent issues were causing me problems.  My cranky foot was fine.  The breathing problems were gone.  I was taking the hill with a more powerful, yet comfortable stride that I had felt in any of my recent runs.  I could just tell that I was going to have a good race.

I did the first mile in a slower than I wanted 9:44, but was feeling good.

Miles 2,3, and 4:

If I thought that I was in for a good race after the first mile.  I damn sure knew it by the end of mile four.  I was running well and having to work to keep myself from going faster. 

I did mile 2, which was flat road of the surface of the Morrisville Parkway  in 9:08  
I did mile 3 which is road and the start of the trail in 9:08 too
I did mile 4 which was all trail in 9:08 as well.

I was clipping off these miles at steady even pace with little effort.

Miles 5& 6:

Mile 5 was on a slight downhill, which contributed  to me picking up the pace a bit and doing mile 5 in 8:59 and mile 6 was on an uphill and saw the course get a bit more tight as the faster runners began to hit the turn around and begin their return run, and help slow my pace for the mile to 9:22

Miles 7, 8, and 9:

In my past half marathon attempts, I have often started to lose focus over this portion of the race and zone out.  But, I was able to avoid that during this race.  I am not sure if this was because I knew to route so well, and was able to concentrate more on the course.  It might also have been because the course was still so packed that I had to focus more or I would knock people down.  I'm not sure, but for what ever reason I stayed focused and still felt great over the next three miles. 

Mile 7 -- 9:20
Mile 8 -- 8:58
Mile 9 -- 9:36

Miles 10, 11, 12:

The humidity for this race had been bad, just as bad as Miami.  But the temperature was more mild, and the clouds had kept the sun at bay.  However, I had seen a lot of people cramping up as the race progressed.  At mile 10, I felt good, but most of this mile was on a steady slight incline and as I progressed along, I could feel my pace slipping.  I was adding water to my Nuun as I pass the water stations, and soaked with sweat.  I passed several people who were cramped up, and at least two who were sick.  I wanted to push harder, but I chose to wait until I was off of the trail and back onto the road where I would have more room to pass.  Mile 10 was my slowest mile on the day, but it wasn't my worst feeling.  I finished it in 10:04

I felt some tightness one my right side of my chest and a small pain in my back on the same side over miles 11 and 12.  I thought that it was more of a stitch than a heart attack, but it kept me from pushing my pace like I had planned.  I did mile 11 (which was my worst feeling mile) in 9:47 and 12 in 9:41

Mile 13 and the "Downhill Finish" that has everyone talking --

Enjoying the "Downhill Finish"
Before the race, there had been a lot of e-mails sent out which talked about the downhill finish of this race.  And to be fair, from 12.52 to 12.86 there is a major downhill that is a dream to run with a 43 ft. drop in elevation (according to Old Bob).  Awesome right!?!  Well that still leaves the last .2 miles where you have to give about half of that decline back.

Ken and I:  Never met before today, but we kept meeting up along the course

Notice that I am looking Up at the finish line!

That's Our Downhill Finish!  I want to meet the person who sent those e-mails!

Notice everyone is looking Downhill!

Now, I wouldn't make that big of a deal out of this had the race not played up the downhill finish so much.  It did suck, but I was able to handle it and even managed a pretty good kick, but the false advertising was a little much to must people, who have just run either 13.1 or 26.2 miles.  My stitch subsided as I began mile 13 or I just was to numb to feel it anymore.  Either way, I did mile 13 in 9:53, I didn't get under 2 hours, but I ran a good race that I am more than happy with and finished the race with a sexy new PR: 2:03:33.

Dark Circles Under Eyes,  Medal On Backward, And Happy As Can Be!

Awesome Race!



  1. It's so rude when they put a hill at the end of the course. But who cares because you have a shiny new PR!!!!!!!!!!!! Woo hoo!!!!! Congrats friend!!!

  2. congrats on the PR! and great recap!

    Do you like Nuun? I have never tried it but I hear good things...

    1. Thanks, I do like Nuun a lot. I am not a fan of Gator Aid or other sports drinks!