Thursday, June 30, 2016

2016 Marine Corps Historic Half Race Report

Better late than never... Back in mid-May Scot and I ran the Marine Corps Historic Half in Fredericksburg VA. It was his first time running this race, as he doesn't often do half marathons. It was my second time; I ran it in 2012. We registered late after realizing that neither of us had anything planned this weekend, and it would be a good training run (hilly) for Scot's upcoming mountain marathons. He wore an elevation training mask for the entire 13.1 miles. The mask restricts air flow, thereby decreasing his intake of oxygen. He used the setting to mimic 6,000 ft altitude.

A somewhat decent race pic of me after I conquered Hospital Hill

We drove down to Fredericksburg on the Saturday before the race to pick up our packets. Scot also needed to have his elevation mask tagged to show that he had permission from the race director to wear it. Typically, masks are not allowed for security reasons, so Scot was lucky to be granted this privilege. At the expo we ran into Sid, who was handing out bibs, and Teresa, a fellow admin of my MCM & 10K Club Facebook group.

I stopped by the Geico booth on a whim. They were giving out reusable shopping bags, which I didn't really need, but for some reason I wanted one. Then I stood in line to play a game in the booth. It was sort of like an electronic slot machine. You push a button, and the icons on the screen spin. If you get three "Geico Military" icons in a row, you win. I watched several people lose. When it was my turn I joked with the Geico guy about how I was going to be the one to win - and I did! I got a pair of Geico Military sunglasses and a very nice technical fabric shirt. I was now part of Team Geico. I was told that if I wore that shirt at any race where Geico was present, I would get a free massage at the finish line. Not a bad deal! I planned to wear my shirt at the race the next day. I also won a free Baltimore Marathon shirt from their booth.

My expo loot, as presented by Jack

On Sunday morning we got up early to drive down to Fredericksburg again. We allowed plenty of time to get a somewhat decent parking space and to not feel rushed. While Scot made a last minute trip to Walmart for some supplies, I met up with members of my Facebook group for a photo. Then I found Sid in the corral and waited for the race to start. It was a little chilly, so I wore the "throw-away" recovery jacket that I got at the 2014 Indianapolis Monumental Marathon.

With my Facebook group
A few Half Fanatics; we didn't see others doing a big group pic, so we did our own

It was a beautiful day with ideal race conditions. I started off at a comfortable pace doing my run/walk intervals. It was very crowded in the first couple miles, so that kept me from picking up the pace too much. That was fine except on the big downhill, when I wanted to fly faster than the other runners around me. I used to have trouble with downhill running (calf pain, after having a stress fracture in the tibia), but now I like to use the free gravity of the downhill portions of the road. At some point in the first mile I ditched my throw-away jacket on the median. The sun and my pace had warmed me up significantly.

Running Downtown
I tried to run this race much like I had run the previous week in Frederick MD - sticking with my scheduled run/walk intervals even when I was going uphill, trying not to add too much extra walking. And it was going well. I skipped several walk breaks in the first half of the race on the downhills. I stuck to the intervals otherwise. I enjoyed running through the neighborhoods of Fredericksburg, and then we came to the downtown area where there were a lot of spectators and performers. This was a fun section, and we were given Sport Beans at one of the aid stations.




Lots of musicians in and around Downtown

After downtown, there was going to be a lot of uphill. There's the dreaded Hospital Hill that everyone talks about, but that's not the only hill. On one of the first big hills there were some people giving out screwdriver shots (vodka and orange juice), so I took one. Later, I heard there was beer somewhere in that vicinity, but I never saw it. I did end up doing a little extra walking up the hills. On Hospital Hill itself, my strategy was to do 30 seconds of running alternating with 30 seconds of walking. It got me up the hill faster, and I was even passing people.

Uh-oh...this means Hospital Hill is coming!
View of other runners coming up the hill behind me

On the very last uphill section we are welcomed by two fire trucks, one on either side of the road, suspending a flag from their ladders. Runners go right between them and run under the flag. It's a welcoming sight not only because it's pretty awesome to see, but at this point you know that you really are almost done with the race. The sun was still shining bright, but the winds had picked up. I knew that after I finished I'd be cold, and I hadn't checked a bag with a warmer layer. As luck would have it, my throw-away jacket was waiting for me on the same median where I had left it. I picked it up and carried it the rest of the way.

And it almost was

In the finish chute I high-fived several Marines, and also the MCM mascot Miles. Molly was also there, but out of reach. I was happy to be finished! After making my way through the line for medals, food and drink, I found the Geico massage tent. It was RIGHT THERE, so convenient! I had to wait in line about 15 minutes for my massage, but it was worth it. My massage therapist was named Hope and she worked on my legs for 10 minutes. Awesome perk! I'll definitely wear that shirt at future Geico sponsored races.

Geico massage booth!

I was happy I had retrieved my throw-away jacket. I could have used something even warmer, as it was windy and chilly while I was in the beer tent drinking my Goose Island IPA (yes! an option other than Michelob Ultra). My hand was freezing holding onto that beer, but I didn't care. I'd had a good race and I was happy. I struck up a conversation with a few runners who also know Sid. While I was drinking, Scot texted me to say that he and Sid were at Mile 13. Scot had stuck with Sid and his entourage the entire race, wearing his mask.

A medal, beer and a warm "throw away" jacket
With Vicki in her patriotic running gear 

On the way to find Scot, I found Vicki. Vicki is a mutual friend through Abbi, but until this moment we had only met on Facebook. It was great to meet her in person, and we walked back to our cars together, with her friend Joni.

With Sid and his crew and Scot in his mask
Me, Scot, Magenta the Road Trip Flamingo, Vicki and Joni hiding

This was a good day. The Marines always put on a great race experience. On this hilly course, I was proud that my time was several minutes faster than the week before in Frederick. Of course, we had more downhill at the Historic Half, so that helped. And my time was only two minutes slower than my half in Columbus two weeks prior, on a much flatter course. Even better - at the Historic Half I made a port-o-potty stop mid-course, so my actual running time was even faster. This tells me that my training is working; my speed and my hill performance are improving.

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