Yesterday I ran the Door County half marathon. This was my third year participating in this event, second time running the half (there's also a 5K). It's a "little" race, with about 1500 participants as I recall.
I love this race. It is run entirely within Peninsula State Park, which is as spectacular a location as you could hope for. If you've never been to Peninsula, you should go. There's a public golf course, lots of camping, biking, hiking, boating...it's a great place. What's cool about the race is that they close the park for several hours while it's being run. This means absolutely no traffic on the course. Just you, your fellow runners, and the scenery. No nasty gas fumes to ruin such a pristine place.
The organizers of this race heavily suggest using their shuttle service into the park rather than driving in and parking on your own. I've never used the shuttle, but it seems like more and more people do every year, and it's very orderly. Parking is kind of funny around the race grounds, it's plentiful, but weird because you're parking in campsites! Prettiest parking of any race I've ever done, and the parking volunteers are actually friendly which is kind of rare.
The runner's concourse is right by the water, and packet pick up is very organized. There are vendors selling GU and shoes, a couple of local restaurants (one "green", one traditional) doing concessions, and lots of friendly volunteers keeping everything clean and tidy. This is a "green" race, so they break out trash by type. Compost, recyclable paper, cans, plastic, etc. There's a volunteer at every trash station to help you figure out what category your trash is! They even do running shoe recycling, which I love, because I never know what to do with my old shoes once they're toast. They recycle the shoes into turf for running surfaces, which I think is nifty. After the race there was a boatload of food (oranges, bananas, bagels, cookies (!), chocolate milk, etc) and they had several lines going so you didn't have to wait around long to get it. There's no alcohol in the park, so the afterparty is in a different location, but you get a card for a free beer :) I have never been able to stay for the afterparty, but I understand there's live music every year.
The shirt was a tech shirt this year, which kind of bummed me out. So many races have changed over to tech shirts, and honestly? I don't need another tech shirt. If I'm running, then people know I run. I want a "running" shirt to wear when I'm not running! That said, it's a really nice shirt. Nice material, pretty design, good fit (unisex). Not as awesome as the Whistlestop shirts...but WAY, WAY better than my cruddy Dousman duathlon and Seroogy's 15K shirts. (Am I the only one that deeply misses cotton T-shirts?)
The medal was big this year. I didn't feel like I deserved it, however.
A half marathon is a long ass run. Since I've been marathon training, I've developed a tendency to think of distances less than 15 miles as being "short". I didn't run a step this week after my 22 miler (bad weather, blah, blah, blah), and I kind of forgot about this race until last week. Usually I have butterflies the night before a race, but this time? Nada. I was feeling really overconfident. Last year I posted a 2:20 or somesuch and I wasn't even trying. I thought for sure I'd kill this race. It was going to be nothing. A beautiful jaunt around a beautiful place, sliding into home around 2:15.
Guess what. I ran 2:28:18, and I had to fight to get that.
First? It was pouring when I left home, and continued to rain as I picked up my packet. It wasn't cold, but it was wet. I decided to wear my rain jacket/wind breaker. It rained as we waited at the start, and after the gun went off. I went out too fast, running sub-10 for the first 2 miles. Then? The coulds parted and the sun came out, then temp warming quickly to near 60 degrees.
Now, that made the route glisten and sparkle and be extra beauteous...but it also made me wet and HOT. I wore an older pair of shoes that are not as water permeable since I figured I'd end up with wet feet and I don't want my marathon shoes to get soaked before M-day. They are also heavier and less squishy. I was hating my jacket by mile 4, and taking it off and tying it around my waist just made it flap wetly against my legs. The route is hilly, which I knew, but again thought I'd have no problem with since I run hills pretty regularly. However, I don't run them wet in 60 degree weather. So by the time I hit mile 5, I was taking a walk break and cursing my decision to wear capris and a jacket instead of a skirt and a tank.
There was a point that I seriously considered just walking it in. Then my pride kicked in and shouted "YOU WILL NOT POST A TIME OVER 2:30! YOU ARE NOT SICK OR INJURED, YOU ARE JUST PISSY! RUN, YOU PANSY ASS!"
I crossed the finish at 2:30 flat on the big clock, but forgot to stop my watch (d'oh). The official race results were posted damn near intantaneously (you go, race officials!) so I knew my time to be 2:28:18. Sub-2:30, thank the gods.
I will absolutely run this race again, but next time I will have a healthy dose of nerves beforehand. I will also try to do it with someone else. Not neccessarily run together, but just know there's a friend on the course and that there will be someone to have lunch and a beer with at the end. Last year I did it with my friend Joanne, and it was tons of fun. This year was a little lonely.
I can't stress enough how gorgeous this run is. You are running on roads you might never see or know exist. There's a little graveyard in the park, which I had forgotten...I don't think I could find it again, but I'm going to try...the stones looked pretty old. There is one section around the 10 mile mark, I think, that takes my breath away. And yes, there are plenty of uphills, but that means plenty of downhills!
Maybe I can convince a few of my Panty Raider peeps to spend a weekend in Door County next year. What do you think, ladies? Rent a cabin, race, hit the afterparty, then Shipwreck for microbrews and/or one of the many wineries? Maybe the Death's Door distillery? Their whisky would take the varnish off a door...
Two weeks until the marathon. I will be chanting something in my head during all my runs until then:
Respect the Distance.