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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Race Report: Buffalo Creek Half Marathon

I have been hearing about the Buffalo Creek Half Marathon for years but this year I finally had the chance to participate in the race! Last year, I had a boot on my foot and missed both the Great Race and Buffalo Creek. This fall was so different. I was able to run a really fun Great Race and finish in a decent time.

The Buffalo Creek Half is very similar to the Great Race because both have a net downhill, point-to-point course. The weather was chilly and windy, but not unbearable (like the NYC marathon would prove to be). I was lucky to ride up to the race start with friends but I was unlucky and forgot my Garmin and wireless headphones!

This would be my second official half marathon, even though I often feel my first half marathon doesn't really count. It was the Pittsburgh half in May 2011 and I stopped by mile 11 due to hip flexor pain and cried for about 20 minutes. Then I walk-jogged to the finish, still crying, and even another runner offering me a cookie didn't make me feel better.

I felt very prepared for this race and was injury free, so I didn't let forgetting my technology bother me. I focused on how grateful I was to be running this race. And I was wearing special green shoelaces to honor my two beautiful nieces and bring awareness to the need for more research for rare genetic diseases.

The race started and I tried very hard to focus on my race plan. The plan was to run negative splits, or start with mile times that are slower than the final few mile times.

My goal was to finish under 2 hours, but my pace plan would bring me across the finish line very, very close to that 2 hr mark, at 1:56. Not a lot of wiggle room!

Also, not having my Garmin made it a little tricky to know if I was on pace or not and since the race is on a trail the entire way there weren't time keepers at the mile marks. I relied on the app that helps me keep my cadence and relied on how I felt. Could I maintain a conversation?

I found a running buddy around mile 4, named Ed (lucky name for me!) and we talked and told stories until mile 8. He was a terrific guy and we even found each other after the race for a celebratory selfie!

After mile 8, I knew I needed to pick up the pace. Ed waved me forward with best wishes. I sped up a little but by mile 11, I knew I needed to really push it if I wanted to be safely under 2 hours.

There was a small hill very close to the end of the race. A lot of people were worried about it, but I felt terrific getting a break and forcing myself to charge up the incline. We crossed a bridge and made a few tight turns and then rolled downhill to the finish and I crossed in 1:57!

I really enjoyed this race. The course was beautiful and not too crowded. I overheard one runner complain we were moving too fast to enjoy the scenery, but since I was running next to her when I heard her say this, I know she wasn't running that fast.

Even the process of getting people from the parking lot to the start line and from the finish to the parking lot was smooth. Many runners were upset the fire hall wasn't open before the race, but since this was my first race it wasn't something I missed. The finish line food was satisfying and they were right: the hot apple cider hit the spot on that cold day.

I like the technical long sleeve race shirt I received, but since more than 50% of the registered entrants were women, it did bother me it was only available in a men's cut.

After the race I checked the GPS-based mile splits on my cadence app. For the most part, I was able to achieve negative splits. It's hard not to go out fast in that first mile, but I eased up in the middle and my fastest miles were definitely my final miles.

I'm looking forward to running this race again in 2015!

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