Red Baron Half Marathon Race Report

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That is me at the end of the Red Baron Half Marathon today. In an uncharacteristic change, I had seen Chris before the finish but he didn’t have a camera so I had no idea where Lisa might have been. As a result the pictures are very natural – it is refreshing to not always be so posed. Spoilers: I set a new PR, had a fantastic time, ran a nearly constant pace, and felt completely great after! So let’s hit some of the details.

The weather was cold – it was predicted to top out at 39F, and I knew it would be windy the whole time because of the setting. I decided to wear my Nike top that is good by itself to about 30F, along with my Nike shorts, light gloves and light Puma hat. I was lucky and appreciative to have Lisa and Chris bringing me to the start, which was at Corning Community College – a great exposed hilltop. I got my bib, pins and the tech shirt – which I am wearing in the pictures … there is a bizarre looking ‘red baron’ character drawn on there – took me a bit to really see it.

We all walked from the registration area to the starting line on the other side of the science building. The wind was stronger as we lined up, but as I found a place somewhere in the middle of the pack I remembered my two goals:

1. Don’t go out too fast.
2. Run a consistent pace.

I didn’t have a specific time goal, but always hope to improve on my last race. I had run the 2012 Red Baron in 1:56:40 … but had gone out way too fast (a recurring theme), and was really tanked watching people pass me at the finish. I hung around past the awards last year because I was alone and needed time to feel decent again before I drove.

One thing about starting mid-pack? There is ONLY ‘gun time’ in this race, so you automatically lose some time by starting mid-pack. At the same time last year there were only ~415 people who ran, so the delay is in tens of seconds and not minutes. Here is the overall route map according to my Garmin:

Red Baron Route

I really wanted to use that loop area at the start as my ‘warm up’ to get myself going and set a sustainable pace. And it worked – whereas last year I was sowing the seeds of my own destruction, here I was going at a casual and comfortable pace. I never looked at my watch, instead trying to ‘run by feel’ and listen to my body and breathing. I will just say I am proud of how I did with this!

The first few miles are rolling hills, and are wonderfully gorgeous scenic areas. At the Spencer Crest Nature Center I saw my friend Jessica from Corning cheering folks on and waved hi – I had totally missed her last year. The cheering people are just so great for runners – especially knowing those folks are standing out in 32-ish windy weather. A couple of miles later when we hit another crowd of spectators I heard the cutest thing from a little girl who looked about 4 years old:

“Some of them are wearing shorts. Aren’t they cold? My legs are cold and I am wearing pants. Aren’t they cold, Mommy?”

Actually at that point we had left the windy section and were about to get into the well protected area where you end up quite warm. Off came my hat and gloves, and I was getting quite sweaty – but I knew they would be going back on a few miles later!

Here is the elevation map. What is really surprising to me that hill right around the 5 mile mark … because I remember looking at the course map last year and thinking ‘good, no big hills’. But when you are running it SEEMS much bigger than what that elevation map suggests. You turn a corner and BAM it is there straight ahead and psychologically it seems huge … and it IS pretty steep. So even if it is nothing compared to my ‘big hill’ … I was glad to be past it.

Red Baron Elevation

I had been making sure to keep a conversational pace, and heading to the hill I parted ways with a woman I’d been talking to for a half mile or so. It had seemed we had passed one another a few times, so we were laughing about it. She dropped back for the hill and I kept going at my same, flat pace. Looking back, this tells me it isn’t that hard of a hill – because on ‘my hill’ my pace drops significantly.

After that hill there are about 5 miles of nice, gradual down slope. For the first mile I was running too fast – about an 8 minute mile – and I could tell. I knew I had to slow up a bit, and so I brought my pace in line over the next couple of miles. I really didn’t want to exhaust myself.

Last year at the water stop around 10 miles I got my foot caught on something in the road and tripped coming into a water stop and nearly took out the whole thing including the nice lady trying to hand out water! Fortunately this year I didn’t have any incidents!

As I was running along I ended up chatting with another nice woman – Lisa loves to joke about how I have become a chatterbox since we moved to New York! She was very interesting – she lives in Albany and hadn’t read anything about the race until this morning. She mentioned Schenectady and I noted that I went to RPI – she said she went to Russell Sage, so naturally I told her Lisa went to Sage as well. Small world! She came with a friend who had collapsed during the Hudson Mohawk Marathon, which was the week after the Wineglass. She had become dehydrated and nearly delusional during the race.

I found out during the Wineglass last year just how many people turn to running and distance races as part of coping with changes or difficulties in life. And as I learned this was true for this woman. She had recently sold her big farmhouse, boarded her horses and moved into a brownstone in Albany. The house was the last thing (other than her kids) from her marriage which ended in 2005 and she needed to move on. Worse yet, in 2012 she had lost her 14 year old daughter. I have no idea what happened … but there is simply no good way that a 14 year old ends up dead.

I said to her something I firmly believe – that I never take for granted how lucky I am to be married to such an amazing and wonderful woman and to actually enjoy spending time with her.

One great thing about all of that chatting? I kept a conversational pace, and she asked me to check my Garmin a couple of times and were very close to a 9 minute pace throughout. It was a very fun time – we were passing people and getting passed by others, and (mostly) everyone was having a good time and chatting.

The finish line is across the bridge at the YMCA in Corning – and that bridge is often windy … but sadly that wind was in our faces as we were going across! By the time I hit the turn-around under the bridge my hands were cold, my face was cold, and I was ready for some hot soup broth! I sprinted to the finish line. Lisa grabbed a few shots after I crossed and was waiting to get my tab pulled for timing. Here is the one where you can see me best:

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The clock read 1:55:20 as I crossed, with my ‘Garmin Time’ giving me 1:55:06 as my actual ‘line to line’ time. Either way I beat my old PR by more than a minute and a half – and I did it while feeling great, keeping my pace … and running MY race!

Here are my splits:
1 9:08.7
2 8:34.4
3 9:09.1
4 8:47.9
5 9:09.5
6 8:07.6
7 8:20.1
8 8:27.4
9 9:03.0
10 9:04.4
11 9:06.1
12 9:12.0
13 8:55.5

We hit the YMCA where I grabbed some broth, took two bites of awful pizza, had a very dense bagel with some coffee that was much appreciated, saw my speed-demon co-worker Kate (who also did a PR of ~1:35 … wow), and then headed home. Lisa and Chris had spent the time having coffee and wandering Market Street, and the thermometer there told them it was 32F all afternoon – they were ready! After a long hot shower, we had some tea and relaxed while Chris made some pizza dough. Looking forward to pizza and a relaxing evening with my three most important peeps!

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8 thoughts on “Red Baron Half Marathon Race Report

  1. Congrats on the PR, it sounds like you had a great race plan and was able to stick with it. Gotta love it when a plan comes together!

    Looking at your splits you ran a very consistent race, with a few miles that were faster, but you didn’t get sucked into keeping at that pace and was able to do what you set out to do.

    I can’t talk during a race, I am such a poop during a race, it is just something that I have never been able to do. I do wish that I could relax enough when running to do that, it sounds like you met some pretty interesting people.

    It was a bit chilly up heah too, but today was my day off, to rest and figure things out. Maybe a race next weekend, maybe not, will see how it goes.

  2. Congratulations on your PR! I love reading your race reports. They are always so detailed and awesome. I love how you seem to make so many friends when you run. I should try talking to people more. 🙂

    I know just what you are talking about with that hill too. On my route there is a nasty, nasty hill that looks like no big deal at all on an elevation chart. The first time I encountered it, I was very confused.

  3. Thanks! I am very happy still today – and knew I felt good so I went out for a ~4.5 mile run this morning. My wife said ‘what happened to recovery’, and I noted that I do harder long runs (including that 15.5 last weekend!), and wanted to see if I felt as good as I thought.

    I know I probably should have pushed it more the last couple of miles, but I was happy to keep my pace more constant and work at how that felt throughout the race.

    I definitely talked more on this race than ever before … but a big part of that was I was very controlled. I don’t know if I will ever talk as much again – but I also know I am not a very competitive person … I can say ‘I only compete against myself’ and mean it (of course, when I do dumb things, it means I am just getting inside my own head!).

  4. Looks like we both had a chilly race on Sunday (25F for me and there was no way I was running in shorts, you’re a crazy man!) Congratulations on your PR and keeping with the plan! I go out too fast and have to remind myself to slow dawn after the first kilometer.

  5. Congratulations, Michael! Awesome time! Call me crazy, but I much prefer the chilly weather races to hot ones. And, as always, I love hearing your little bits about how much you appreciate your wife. It’s so sweet that you’re still so in love and I aspire to be the same way!

  6. Thanks all for the great comments!

    Megan – I definitely prefer cold race days! The Wineglass marathon in early October was unseasonably warm – last year we started at 40 and ended at 60 degrees … this year started at 63 and finished ~80F with high humidity! Brutal!

    My wife really is my biggest supporter … though she told me not to sign up for anything else until the spring or I was on my own 🙂 She was COLD! And my younger son agreed!

  7. Pingback: My Running Story – The ‘Corning Years’ Through Today | Running Around the Bend

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