After a summer of very serious training, our big day finally arrived, and the 2nd Annual Hokie Half Marathon was upon us!
Soon after getting up, I drank two large glasses of water, ate a banana, 1/4 of a bagel with a very thin layer of peanut butter, and a few homemade sweet potato fries. Being properly fueled and hydrated, I was ready to tackle my next task… determining how to dress.
I debated about what to wear, but after seeing WeatherBug’s hourly forecast for low 50’s and only a 40% chance of rain at 9 AM, I decided on shorts and a tank. As an afterthought, I grabbed my Brooks shell to wear, thinking I could tie it around my waist and put it on if it started raining and I got cold.
Of course being the weather geek that I am, I had been stalking the weather for days, and didn’t believe the sudden change in the forecast… It went from an 80% chance of rain all morning long, to practically no rain, yet Doppler radar looked like this at 7 AM, just 30 minutes prior to the race (Blacksburg is the red pin on the right).
Bill and I arrived at the race start at the Virginia Tech Corporate Center and found a great parking place right next to the porta potties around 6:30 AM; however, on the way over (about half way there), we had to go back to the hotel to pick up Bill’s race bib. Fortunately, he remembered that he had left it laying in his race backpack on the bed and we were able to retrieve it with little interruption. Even with that little stumble, we still had plenty of time to chill, hit the line-less porta potties, and get organized before the race.
As we sat in our car, it started raining. We put on our Hefty bag ponchos before braving the elements to meet my fellow MRTT runner friends. I was supposed to meet the girls at 7:15, but didn’t leave my dry car until just after 7:10. We decided to use the porta potties one last time before the race, and it was 7:23 by the time I got to our meeting place. Needless to say, I’d missed them (sorry Jessica and Tara), but I couldn’t have gotten a picture anyway, because I didn’t dare take my iPhone out of it’s snug and dry Ziploc bag.
The weather at this year’s race couldn’t have been more different than last year, so I didn’t take any pictures along the course. Just before the race started, Bill remembered that he’d left his bib in the car and had to run back and get it. We were in wave one, so it was no big deal, especially since the car was nearby. I was up near the front of the first wave, and he later told me that he was able to start near the back of the first wave.
Just before the race started I had a fellow runner take a picture of me with my iPhone without taking it out of the Ziploc bag. As you can barely see, I’m still wearing my Hefty bag. At the conclusion of the National Anthem, Enter Sandman blared on the loud speakers, we all started jumping, and the starting gun fired. I ripped off my Hefty bag, started my RunKeeper, and we were off!
At this point it was raining lightly, and I had my jacket and gloves on. At the end of the first mile, my legs felt like lead, but I’d started faster than planned (8:39 vs. 9:15) so I wasn’t too concerned. I popped a Honey Stinger in my mouth, and set up a plan to eat one at each mile, and changed my race strategy from running reverse splits to running even paces.
The farther we ran, the harder it rained. I unzipped my jacket to cool down a little, and that created the perfect temperature for me. My arms were covered and warm, but my core was exposed and could stay cool.
For the most part I ran alone, yet in a pack of the same runners for miles. We rarely spoke except to occasionally thank a volunteer or spectator for being out on such a rainy day. I couldn’t enjoy the beauty of one of my favorite trails, the Huckleberry Trail, because I had my visor pulled low to keep the rain out of my eyes.
I continued to take a Honey Stinger at every mile, and I stopped and walked through every water stop while drinking a full cup of water.
At one point I got a good chuckle when I ran right through a water puddle that covered my shoes. By this point my clothes and shoes were saturated, so… why not? My body temperature stayed very comfortable until about mile 10 when my feet started getting slightly cold. It wasn’t enough to really bother me, but I noticed it.
Around mile 11, my right leg (sciatic nerve pain) started rearing its ugly head, and I forgot all about my chilly feet. I ran tall, engaged my core even more, and pushed through, knowing that as soon as I finished the race, my leg would quit hurting.
The rain lightened up as I passed mile 12, and I took my jacket off and tied it around my waist. With the rain stopping, I was happy that I’d be able to take my phone out of the bag and take pictures after the race.
I was thrilled as I crested the last hill of a very hilly course, and remembered the downhill finish from last year. As I ran hard down toward the chute, I heard Barry cheering me in!
My race splits were pretty even and my slowest mile was Mile 13 at 9:17, with a pretty nasty climb for the last half-mile. I finished the last .1 mile at a 7:48 pace. Note: I can’t capture a screen shot of all 14 miles, so this is the best I can do. This is another reason I’m asking for a Garmin for my birthday!
As you can see, there wasn’t a tremendous amount of elevation change during the race, but the constant up and down was quite tiring.
As soon as I crossed the finish line I was handed a bottle of water and directed to pick up my finisher’s shirt. We were allowed to try on shirts to make sure we got one that fit. Believe me, that wasn’t an easy task to do since we were soaking wet!
Just as I picked out the right size, I turned around and there was Bill heading toward me. He had finished right behind me! I saw that he had a finishers medal and magnet in his hand, and I realized that I hadn’t gotten mine. Because of the rain, the medals were still in their little plastic bags, and they weren’t being placed around our necks as we finished per usual.
Suddenly the rain started pouring down again, and Bill and I found shelter under a canopy. We stood there a while, in the saturated sod, and I dared to take my iPhone out of the bag to take a few pictures while standing under the protective canopy.
Bill took a quick picture of me proudly holding my medal even thought it was still wrapped up tightly.
I returned the favor and took a picture of Bill in his new finisher’s shirt.
Eventually I left my dry space and ran over to the black timing tent near the finish line and asked what time the awards ceremony would be held. They told me that it had been canceled, but they could tell me my official time. I finished in 1:55:26 (8:48 pace) and was thrilled with my time on what I considered a pretty hilly course. As of the time of writing this, age group places have not been posted on the race’s website, but by looking at the preliminary results, I can calculate where I finished. I am not posting anything though, until I see it in writing! I’m not going to make the same mistake twice! 😉 Note: Age group results are now up, and I finished second in my age group!
On our way to the food tent, we found Meagan and Barry and got in line with them. Meagan had her waterproof camera with her (mine was safely back in its Ziploc bag), and we had the lady in line behind us take our pictures. I think the water on the lens is perfect, and sums up our race!
As soon as we got our warm chili, we said our goodbyes to Meagan and Barry, and headed back to our car. My biggest concern was to avoid spilling chili on my brand new white shirt as I shivered, and my hands shook. Not to worry… when we got to the car, I leaned over to move Bill’s jackets out of the back seat of the car, forgetting that I had chili in my hand, and I promptly dumped chili on his jackets (sorry Babe).
Once back at the hotel, I stripped out of my soggy wet clothes, showered, and got into dry cloths. It took a while for my pruney hands to return to normal!
As we were leaving The Inn, we saw Meredith and her husband and friends. Meredith hired me last year after finding me through my blog and realizing that we lived in the same town. Of course it didn’t hurt that I was a fellow Hokie! One of her goals was to become a runner. She started last year with a 5K, and now she’s a half marathoner! She told me that as soon as she crossed the finish line on Sunday, she said, “I want to do this again.” Stories like that make my day, and that’s exactly why I’m smiling so big in this picture!
The swag for the Hokie Half was pretty incredible. In addition to the race shirt and backpack given to us at the expo, we received a finisher’s shirt, medal, and car magnet.
Bill and I had a great weekend, and really enjoyed running the race both last year and this year. If we lived closer to Blacksburg, I know that we would run the Hokie Half every year!
- Have you ever run a race in the pouring rain?
- What is the best swag you’ve gotten at a race?
- Who raced this past weekend?