My First Half-Marathon

I ran my first half-marathon this past weekend, the Bear Chase Race half-marathon on Sunday.  Here are a few thoughts on the race itself.  If you don’t want to read any further, I’ll sum it up by saying that I had a great time and I’d recommend this race to anyone.

Pre-race.  Prior to the race, everything went fine.  They have a comprehensive website that answered all of my questions – course maps, cutoff times, past results, etc.  Registration was quick and easy – they don’t have a long, drawn-out process with questionnaires and add-ins.  They have a good race guide for download that outlines everything for race day – packet pickup, parking, etc.  The goodie bag was standard – a granola bar, a sports drink powder, coupons and the race t-shirt.  I like the t-shirt – it’s a blue tech shirt with darker blue lettering.  Very subdued and one that I may actually wear now and then.

Just before the start of the Bear Chase Race 1/2 marathon.
Just before the start of the Bear Chase Race 1/2 marathon.

Race.   The race itself was great.  I’ve run and cycled all over Bear Creek Lake Park, so I was pretty familiar with the trails already.  But, this course had three water crossings which took us on a section of trail that I hadn’t been on before.  So that was something new for me.  The course was long enough to get to see most all of the park and get some variety in terrain.  It had the wooded sections along the creeks, the open grasslands, and a couple of hill climbs – mostly on nicely packed single track with just a small amount of slightly technical stuff.  By slightly technical, I just mean that you probably would want to look where you’re running rather than just bombing through it.  Aid stations were stocked with Honey Stinger waffles, drinks, and other endurance fuel (aka sugar) and staffed by awesome, cheery volunteers.

Here I am on the trail during the race.  Get it?  "On" the trail!
Here I am on the trail during the race. Get it? “On” the trail!

The race went pretty well for me.  Well as in I finished and I finished ahead of my goal, but not without some suffering.  I was ahead of my planned pace by several minutes through the first two aid stations.  I spent a bit of time at the third aid station, but left it right on schedule.  I wouldn’t say that the wheels came off, but things started getting rougher soon after that third aid station.  Around mile 9.5 my feet started hurting, then around mile 10.5 my hamstrings and calves started cramping.  By mile 12 I got cramps every time I ran uphill and most of the time going downhill.  As soon as I started walking, though, they stopped.  I ended up walking most of mile 12, thinking I would save something to be able to at least run the final stretch over the finish line.

But, as luck would have it, I cramped up so bad I couldn’t even walk about 100 yards from the finish line!  It took a minute or so stretching there before I loosened up enough to make a slow jog over the line.  I’ve never cramped up during exercise before, so I’m going to have to think about that and do some research to see what I can to avoid it in the future.  Because it sucked!  The rest of the day was slow and painful – tired legs and I also developed a wicked bad pain in the bottom, outside area of my foot.  The legs felt fine the next day, though, and my foot was mostly alright.

But, the key is that I did finish.  A year ago, I couldn’t have imagined doing a flat 10k on a road, much less a trail half-marathon.  I’m really excited with the progress I’ve made in such a short time.  This is definitely one of those “If I can do it, anyone can!” situations.  I hope if anyone reads this post who is thinking that something like this is out of reach for them, that they think again and give it a try.  Have faith in yourself and just do it.  A year ago I was almost 40 pounds heavier than I am now and couldn’t run a mile without walking.  Heck, it was only 6 months ago that I finally started losing weight and still couldn’t run much more than 1.5 miles before walking.

Finished!  Bear Chase Race 1/2 marathon, 2016!
Finished! Bear Chase Race 1/2 marathon, 2016!

Post-race.  Everything afterwards was fine.  By the time I got to the finish, they were mostly done with the awards – overall, gender, age-groups, etc.  The finisher medal was nice…just a standard “everyone gets a medal” type of thing, but nice.  They had a good setup with some tasty pancakes and sausage from Flippin’ Flapjacks and Lone Tree Brewing serving up one of their beers.  I love breakfast beer!

Overall, this was a fun experience.  I’ll do this race again, and start looking for others.  I think the half-marathon is a great distance – not so long that I feel like I need to sacrifice everything else to train, but definitely not so easy that I can just jump off the couch and do one.  And, I have plenty of room for improvement in terms of my pace, that’s for sure.  Of course, I think I enjoy the exercise, the scenery and getting to hang out with like minded folks as much as anything.  Who knows what the future will bring, but right now I think the half is a pretty good distance for me.