Saturday, March 2, 2013

Race Recap: Hyannis Half Marathon

All week long I dreaded checking the weather for Sunday, February 24. I did it anyways, and every time I looked the forecast stayed the same - snow/rain/high winds with a temperature hovering in the high 30s. That's what you get for signing up for a race in February on the Cape, Sarah.

I think my attitude throughout the week, regardless of how many times I checked the weather, was to just ignore what was coming. This is totally unlike me, but given the situation I knew there wasn't anything I could do about the weather. Instead, I focused on getting excited to run my first race of 2013 and spend time with some great people.

Disclaimer: as a race review and recap, this is kind of a long post, so please settle in or tune in next time!

Race Expo

We stuck with our original plan, and mid-afternoon Cat, Molly and I headed down toward Hyannis.

The race expo was held at the Resort and Conference Center at Hyannis, which is also conveniently where the start and finish lines of the race were. It was fun to see them beginning to set up, and get a sense of where we'd be headed the following morning.

The race expo was set up in the first floor ballroom and, in my opinion, was just your basic expo. It wasn't the biggest I've seen but it also wasn't the smallest. Lots of smaller vendors out in the hallway with bigger vendors like Marathon Sports in the ballroom itself.

Packet pickups consisted of a large manilla envelope with your bib and safety pins along the tables. They had plenty of volunteers there and it wasn't busy mid-afternoon so we were in and out in no time. 

After picking up your bib you moved over to where they were distributing long sleeved t-shirts. The size you chose during your initial race registration was specified on your bib envelope so there was no confusion. A woman next to me did ask to exchange for a different size but they were sticking to what people had ordered with the opportunity to exchange on race day if there were extras. 


After a mandatory post-expo pit stop at Mary Lou's, we hunkered down for a low key evening of baked ziti, games and relaxing.

With a start time of 10am, we didn't need to rush to get ready on Sunday morning. We took our time, stared out at the pouring rain, forced down some bagels, peanut butter and bananas and began layering up and getting ready to head out.

We arrived at the start around 9:35, the perfect amount of time to head into the Conference Center for last minute bathroom stops and one last chance to mentally prepare. Given the weather conditions, having the conference center right there to provide shelter until the last minute was really helpful and comforting.

The field size for this race isn't big in comparison to some others (400 max for the marathon and 2500 max for the half marathon, plus some 75 relay teams), so there's no corrals or staggered starts... at least that I was aware of. We finally bit the bullet and headed outside around 9:58am during the National Anthem and made our way toward the start line, funneling in with the other runners as the race began.

Course, Staff and Spectators

The course itself is as described on the race website, flat and gentle with a few rolling hills primarily occurring between miles 5-8. Nothing to be afraid of, which was good for me considering I really didn't look at an elevation or course map prior to the race. We ran mostly through residential neighborhoods with a few sections along roads with ocean views. The views in the beach areas were nice, but not necessarily what we wanted to see on race day considering they meant that you were more exposed to the wind.

Volunteer coverage for the race was average - not bad, but not amazing either. I think this may have had something to do with the weather, which was understandable. I honestly believe it's harder to stand and volunteer during a race with crappy weather conditions than it is to run one. Water stations were placed about 2 miles apart for the most part, with scarce coverage at first with volunteers struggling to keep up with demand early on but it improved as we kept going.

It wasn't a big spectator course, but there were a good amount of people around cheering on runners which was especially nice given the conditions. I don't think they know how much of a boost it can be to have someone out there cheering you on, even if you don't know them.


The first few miles of the race ticked by pretty easily. I'm usually not quite comfortable with my pace until somewhere between miles 3-5 of a long run, but I felt pretty good out of the gate so I went with it. We maintained a solid 9:40 pace for most of the first 7 miles, with those slower miles clocking in higher due to traffic at a water station and a few instances of road flooding that we had to tip toe around. 

I started to feel the fatigue a bit starting at mile 8 and plaguing me up until right around mile 11. I could tell my legs were starting to get heavy and it was harder to stay focused and mentally strong. Molly had asked me around mile 10 what my half marathon PR was and as soon as she realized we were going to beat it she started to pick up the pace.

I spent the remaining 3 miles cursing her name keeping up with her and focusing on letting the miles tick away. With 2 miles to go I knew it was all going to be a mental battle, and that I was more than capable of completing the race physically, it was just a question of how fast. We used the old method of focusing on a target, and then another, and then another, and started to pick people off as we picked up our pace.

With a mile to go, race-mode Molly was in full force. We kicked it in around 12.2 and focused on getting to the finish. I knew at that point I'd have a decent PR, just wasn't sure by how much. Thanks to all the puddle dodging on the course, my Garmin registered the race as 13.22 mi, so when the nice man told us we had half a mile to go when I was convinced it was more like a quarter I kind of wanted to punch him.

In the home stretch I gave up on keeping my feet dry and splashed through some pretty big puddles full-speed ahead to pass a few more people and hit the finish line in 2:07:35, over 4 minutes faster than my previous half PR. I took a few seconds to catch my breath before pressing stop on my Garmin, hence the difference in official results time and watch time.

As I mentioned early on, my attitude toward this race was somewhat nonchalant throughout the week. After running Philly in the fall, I was actually excited about racing the half marathon distance. It didn't feel like a big deal, and since I wasn't planning to sub-2 this race I just wanted to enjoy it and hopefully come out with a PR.

Despite the crappy weather, I really enjoyed the race and had a great weekend. February isn't exactly race season in the Northeast, so i was just happy to have a race to train for and get me back into distance running. There isn't much you can do about New England weather except make the most of it, and I think we did just that. Coming away with a solid PR was just the cherry on top.

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