Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Towpath Half Marathon Recap

Hi everyone and Happy Tuesday!  Today I'll be recapping my race this weekend, the Towpath Half Marathon.  Overall, I had a great experience at the race and would definitely recommend it!  Before I dive into the mile-by-mile recap, I just wanted to give some overall thoughts and reviews of the race as a whole.

  • The Towpath Marathon features three races- a full marathon, half marathon and 10k.  All three races are in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, but all run different courses.  The half and 10k start at the Brandywine Ski Resort, while the full starts at the Boston Mills Ski Resort (where the expo is held).
towpath marathon review
  • The course is mostly on a narrow crushed limestone trail that is relatively flat.  There are a few sections that were paved and a few small walking bridges that provided the only real inclines.  It's really hard to pass people (particularly near the turn where it's two-way traffic) since the trail is so narrow.
  • There are a lot of water stations, and each one had its own theme which made it really fun.  There was water and gatorade at each stop, along with "Boom" gel at two of the stations.  There were plenty of porta-potties along the course as well.
  • The half marathon finishes a few miles away from the start near the Boston Mills ski resort, but there are school buses that shuttle back to the start line.  The buses came very frequently and I didn't have to wait around at all for a bus.
  • The finish line had cups of Gatorade and water, along with Subway hoagies, apples and bananas.  There was also a beer tent (I believe they had Great Lakes beer) available for $4, so bring along money if you want to drink!

Overall, the organization of the race was excellent and made for a great race weekend!  There was a lot of communication sent out so there was no confusion, and the morning went smoothly.  Now, let's get into a breakdown of how my race went.  As usual, I'll divide the recap in 3 mile chunks, which is also how I divide up the race in my mind while I'm running.  This really helps make the distance seem less intimidating when I focus on my 3 mile run instead of 13 miles!

Miles 1-3
9:28, 9:11, 9:02

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The race starts out in the parking lot of the Brandywine Ski Resort, and goes downhill to Vaughn Road where we entered the Canal Towpath. The first three miles were really congested and it was really hard to pass the other runners.  There were also some potholes in the parking lot road, so watch your footing!  The trail itself is pretty narrow and only fits about three runners across, so you really had to find a hole and sprint through it. About two miles into the race, I found a father and daughter running together so I decided to stick with them and follow their path around the other runners.


Miles 4-6
9:08, 9:07, 9:19

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I continued to stick with the father and daughter, and they kept a steady pace. The trail was gorgeous and all of the leaves were changing colors. There is also a creek on both sides of the trail, so most of the race I was just admiring the beauty of the trail and not paying attention to the race or the fact that I was running! I wanted to keep my pace steady for the first 6 miles so I listened to a podcast (Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me). This worked out really well and those first miles flew by.  I took my first gel (about half of a Honey Stinger Gold gel) at mile 5 with a small mouthful of water.  At that water stop they were passing out Boom gel as well.


Miles 7-9
8:45, 8:44, 8:51

The race turns around at about mile 6, so I wanted to start picking it up. I still felt really great, and the father and daughter duo were also picking up the pace. I started to talk with them, and the next three miles just flew by. This is one huge reason why I love running so much and the entire running community - everyone wants to help each other out and you can quickly become best friends with someone when you're struggling along in a race together. Talking with them definitely helped me power through these miles, which is usually where I start to shut down and feel the soreness in my legs.  Luckily, my legs felt energetic and strong, and my breath was perfectly under control.  


Miles 10-13.1
8:56, 8:44, 8:52, 8:24 + :30

At this point I knew I had to keep my pace to break 2 hours, so I sadly had to leave behind the father and daughter.  I was still feeling really good and felt confident and strong.  I kept telling myself at this point that I only had a 5k to go, and wanted to keep my pace below 9 minutes.  At mile 11, we crossed over Vaughn Road again, where my mom was cheering.  She told me that I was right on pace and could hit my goal, and took a great picture (she also took the one above)!  There was a water stop there as well, and I took a salt tab in case I started to feel nauseous.  I think this really helped because I felt great for the last two miles and really picked it up.  For the last mile, I knew I was going to be under 2 hours and just focused on passing one person at a time.  

I never really get emotional at races, but when I rounded the final corner and saw 1:57:xx on the clock, I did have a moment where I got choked up and thought back on how hard I worked for this race, and feeling thankful for the father and daughter for pushing me on those middle miles.  I'm not sure if I would have done so well if they weren't there, so I waited around after the race to cheer them on and thank them.  What an amazing race!


Final Time - 1:57:10



Tomorrow I'm going to review my training and give some final thoughts on what worked and what didn't.  I always like to look back on my training so I can see what I can improve on next time, and I'm excited to talk about this training cycle!  


Have you ever run a trail race?
What was your best race you've ever run?
Do you like to run with others during races or stick to your own pace?
linking up with Tuesdays on the Run

61 comments:

  1. Yay!!! Congrats on a great race and a strong finish! You did amazing! I know that choked up feeling, it's a good one, isn't it?! So proud.

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    1. Thanks Meredith! It was a GREAT feeling!

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  2. Congrats on a great race Gretchen! Looks like a really pretty course. And look at those negative splits! Thanks for linking up!

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    1. Thank you! The course was gorgeous! I wish I took pictures during the race :)

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  3. First off, those pictures of you are awesome! Frame them! Congrats again on a race time and medal well-earned :)

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    1. I'm thinking about getting them printed! And thank you so much Emily :)

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  4. Am I supposed to see a face in that medal? I see the eyes and eyebrows, a nose, and a mustache. Great job on the sub-2!

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    1. The race logo is a pair of shoes that looks like a face..a little creepy! It's a little hard to see in the medal but it's the same as on the shirt!

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  5. Congratulations!! Always feels good to have negative splits - you did a great job!! It looks like a beautiful race, I'll have to check it out next year!

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    1. Thank you! And yes- I highly recommend it!

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  6. seriously, i got teary reading this, so i can't imagine how emotional you got ;) although, unlike you haha i totally get emotional during every single race. congrats girl, seriously, that's amazing! can't wait to hear more about your training and such.

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    1. Thank you so much Kristen! That means a lot :) I bet you have some interesting finish line photos!

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  7. GREAT job! Proud of you! All that hard work paid off! Woot! Your experience reminded me of when I ran the Eugene Marathon. At mile 14 another runner and I were running side by side and after a mile of this I asked him what his pace was. It was right where I wanted to be and we ended up finishing together. That race changed my marathon game. Runners are awesome people man. :)

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    1. Thanks so much Sokphal! It's crazy how your race can be affected by others, so I always try to be positive to the runners around me. I think this will be a turning point for me as well, and I hope to catch up with you some day!

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    2. Come to DC for a half - we have some great ones! Or I could show you some fun monument routes. :) I wish you lived closer - the cast from Bachelor in Paradise AND Farmer Chris were here two weekends in a row for charity events. None of my friends are really fans of the show. :( But if I saw any of them...what would I even say?

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    3. I will!! I want to come next year for the Citi Open (tennis) and definitely want to run some races there. I would completely freeze up if the bachelor cast was near me...or probably say something embarrassing lol!

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    4. I was tempted to buy tickets, but at the same time I'm thinking..."I don't admire any of them. The guys are a bit younger than me. None are super hot...I'll save my $$" I would ask Ashley I. why she cries so much. She's the "crazy" that guys talk about!

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  8. What great timing and pace with negative splits! Very inspiring!

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  9. You look so relaxed in the pics your mom took. You are making it look so easy! Congratulations on executing a perfect race with a really solid negative split! So proud of you!

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    1. For once, it actually did feel easy and I felt relaxed! Usually I have to fake it for the pictures, but I was genuinely happy :) Thank you so much Heather!!

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  10. Congratulations on a fabulous race!!! I run a trail 10K every April and it's one of my favorite races. I used to run cross country so it's nice to get back on into the woods and away from the pavement!

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    1. I love those races! Luckily this didn't have the hills of a traditional trail race, but those are so much fun. So much easier on your legs as well!

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  11. Congrats on a well run race- very nice splits!

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  12. Beautiful pictures and I LOVE that one of you running at the end there. You look fantastic, and so proud. You should be! I do usually end up running with somebody, even if we don't say a word to each other. It's like we feed off of each other's energy and then when we cross the finish we always go back and wait for the other person so that we can shake hands and thank each other. Runners are pretty fabulous people.

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    1. Thanks Suzy! Love the running community, and it really makes a huge difference during those hard times.

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  13. Love your pictures! This looks like a fun race and probably even better because of the beautiful course!

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    1. It was a great race! I would recommend it to everyone!

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  14. Sounds like a great race!

    I've never done a trail race but that sounds doable, except for the congestion.

    Congrats on a well run race!

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    1. I've done a few other trail races that were definitely a challenge, so this was a nice change of pace! Thank you Judy!

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  15. Congrats on a awesome and smart race, way to pick it up for the second half. I never heard of this race but plan on looking into it. Sounds like a good course

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    1. Thank you Shaun! It's a great race and I want to do it next year as well!

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  16. Congratulations!! What a fun race you had. :) I may register for Towpath in 2016 but I have a few others on my calendar as well... I'm glad you enjoyed my 'hood. CVNP really is beautiful! Congrats again!

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    1. I loved the race! If I lived closer I would definitely do the Towpath Trilogy...it was such a fun and beautiful race! Thank you Rachel!

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  17. Yay yay yay!! You did such a great job, congraulations!!! It sounds like a really great race. love that the water stations had themes, haha.

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    1. Thanks so much Heather! Unfortunately most of the themes were Ohio sports teams so I couldn't really enjoy it..although it made me want to run through the stops a lot faster lol! One of them handed out mints which I thought was really cute!

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  18. Congratulations on a great race. I love trail races so much more than road. The nature just seems to make you forget you are running.
    bakingrunner.blogspot.com

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    1. Thank you Heather! I also prefer trails. It feels better and looks SO much prettier!

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  19. Sounds like you had an amazing time! Congratulations to you on your time, that is just awesome!

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  20. I'm so happy for you! You ran a great race and finally got that PR! What is on the shirt & medal? Looks like...a shoe with a face on it?

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    1. Thanks Jennifer! Now it's your turn! :) I think it's a shoe face...it's kinda creepy and weird to be honest!

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  21. Great job beating your goal!! Those pictures look amazing, it looks like you are totally relaxed and enjoying yourself. Usually I keep someone in my sights to stick with after a couple miles. I don't usually talk to other people, but when I have it's always been really positive. I really love that about running and races, everyone is usually pretty happy to be there.

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    1. Thank you so much! It's always great to use someone as your pacer (especially if they're on the official pace team!)

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  22. What an AWESOME finish, girlfriend!! Proud of youuu.

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  23. I'm so proud of you! You ran a very smart race and should be thrilled with your accomplishment! We will celebrate next weekend!

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    1. Thank you Steffany! Now you go kick butt this weekend and THEN we can both celebrate :)

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  24. SO many congratulations! Great run, great splits, you rocked the socks off of it!

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  25. That's fantastic! Congratulations on a well executed race!

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