|Happy finisher in Medina|
I drove up to Medina on Friday afternoon, stopped by the small expo for my packet, and then headed over to Lager Heads Brewing for some craft beers. There, I met a few locals, including fast ultra runner Ladd, who'd be using the half marathon as a training run, and then working it. After the brewery I had a great meal sitting at the bar at Santosuosso's Pizza Pasta Vino. Then it was time to check into my hotel and get ready for bed.
I woke up early on Saturday because I hadn't yet scoped out the start/finish area, and wanted to beat the rush for the free public parking. I got there with lots of time to spare. The race started and finished in a very quaint town square, surrounded by nice shops and restaurants. I wish there had been a few more port-o-potties as I just barely finished in time to line up in the corral.
|Still wet from the overnight rain, the pacers start to meet up|
|Post port-o-potty, ready to go|
I had a time goal for this race. It was not to PR, but to get closer to my PR as I ramp up my training. Most of my recent half marathons have been just under 3 hours because I was either working as the official 3:00 pacer, or unofficially pacing a friend, or I just didn't care about my time. This was going to be an exception. I set a goal of 2:35, which I was certain was not too easy and not too hard given my current level of fitness. I started in the coral near the 2:30 pacers. I was sure I'd run ahead of them in the beginning, but they'd eventually pass me as I would be taking regular walk breaks.
|Near perfect weather in the start corral|
We started running downhill, and I went out faster than planned. It didn't feel hard because of the downhill, so I kept the pace up. The first 5+ miles of the course were a downhill trend, and at each mile I realized I was quite a bit ahead of goal pace. Still, I wasn't feeling bad, so I kept going. We ran through suburban looking neighborhoods for much of the course, with a nice stretch along Lake Medina. There, we ran on a crushed gravel trail that was full of puddles from the overnight rain. The path was narrow and it was hard to avoid the puddles, especially when passing other runners. And I passed a lot of other runners on my run intervals, then they passed me on my walk breaks. And so on.
|Running along Lake Medina|
Things got tough at Mile 6 with a long uphill stretch. And from there on out, the course had an uphill trend. Several miles of uphill, even if it isn't steep, is tough for me. The good news is that I was still ahead of pace at each mile marker. Eventually, pace groups passed me. The 2:10 runners passed first, and then 2:20. I was still doing run/walk intervals, but I walked a little extra because of the uphill trend. At one point there were kids giving out popsicles. I took one and it was great. The temperature never got terribly hot, but it was a bit humid, and I was warm. Soon after that the 2:30 pacers caught me. I was still ahead of my goal, so I wasn't worried. I leapfrogged with them a little bit due to my run/walk, while they were running a consistent pace. Then I felt them pulling ahead of me. It was late in the race with maybe just a mile to go, so I made sure to keep up, and it helped that one of the two pacers was hanging back a little, encouraging those of us who were just behind him. It sounds funny, but I felt like I didn't want to let him down, so I kept up.
|This bee person was with the group handing out popsicles|
A great part of the course was one final downhill toward the end of the race. I knew we'd have an uphill finish, and this last, long downhill was what I needed to put myself in a good position to tackle the last push of the race. I pretty much flew down that hill, passing both of the 2:30 pacers and others around me. It felt great! And when the last hill up to the finish came, there were cheering spectators. I didn't want to let them down by walking, either. It really took all I had left in me to keep running up to the finish line. But now that I knew I would have a sub-2:30 finish, it was worth it. And I did it. I had my first sub-2:30 half marathon in a long time, and beat my 2:35 goal by more than 6 minutes. I owe it to my training, my persistence, and that 2:30 pacer. Once the two pacers crossed the finish, I made sure to thank them for that last bit of encouragement in the final miles. I didn't run with them for most of the race, but they were there for me when I needed them. This was the first time in a while that I took advantage of on-course pacers, and now I know how appreciative my runners are when they thank me after I pace them.
|Can't forget to stop that Garmin at the finish mat!|
|Immediate post-race pic after thanking the pacers|
I stopped in the finish area long enough to catch my breath after a hard effort. I collected my bee-themed medal, some water and some chips. Then I walked over to the gazebo in the town square and had a seat on a bench to recover. There was a DJ playing in the gazebo. It was a great post-race spot. The real after-party was a block over, but I needed to have some water and food before the beer.
|The cool bee medal|
Finally, I was ready to move on. I got a few pics in the square, then found indoor restrooms (why didn't I see these before the race?). And then I found the party. There was good beer, pizza and a band. And the sun came out. I hung out there for a while and chatted with Stacy, a fellow Half Fanatic who recognized me from the Pro Football Hall of Fame Half in Canton. She had a bunch of friends with her, several of them also Half Fanatics. It was nice to sit, relax, drink a good beer and socialize a bit. But before long I needed to head back to the hotel so I could get a shower before check-out.
|Selfie with Stacy|
This was a good race. Small but nice little expo, good shirt and medal. Not the most exciting course, but a great start/finish area and a wonderful middle segment along the lake. Nice logistics with easy parking. Fun after party. On course, there was water and gatorade about every mile and a half. There was one gel station with Carb Boom gels. And, I got to explore a very nice small town full of friendly people.