Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Lehigh Valley Half Marathon Recap

So the race I have not been thinking about has all of a sudden shown up! When I flipped my calendar to September I kinda freaked out when I saw a half marathon looking back at me. I knew I was ready, but I had no idea what to expect.

Saturday morning I hit the expo. It was down at the Steel Stacks, where everything was located for Runner's World last year.

I grabbed my bib and such, took a quick loop around the expo and headed home. I wanted to be relaxed and ready for this! Thankfully, the cold front moved through and temps were going to be in the 60s race morning!

So Sunday morning my alarm went off at 4:45 and I got ready to go. My mom was filling in for Joe, who couldn't make this race. This is the first big race he hasn't been at. My mom refused to drop me off until more people showed up. She went to get coffee, and I used a real bathroom. When she finally released me, I ate some dry cereal and waited for the race to start. 

Luckily, one of my Instagram friends, Aubrey found me! I was super excited to have someone to talk to! She was aiming for a 1:45 and I instantly realized I had no idea what I was doing. She warned me that the trail gets very narrow at some points. I was so grateful to have her there!

The “plan” of this race was to use it to see where I am for Columbus. Planned marathon pace is 9:30, so that is where I wanted to be around. When the race started, we ran down past the historic Hotel Bethlehem towards the D&L trail. This would be where we would spend most of our miles.

The orange cone is pointing right to me!

Not even a half mile in to the race, I hear someone screaming “GO STEFF!!!” I look over and saw my mom. She made a sign with the little kids cheering for their parents. It was real funny. I heard so many people in the first mile saying that they were off pace and needed to pick it up. Really? It’s mile one! Anyway, my watch went off and I was on pace, 9:34.

Now, we were on the trail. There were huge puddles after the downpour the night before, and we were running east at sunrise. The Sun was so bright and for the next two miles or so, I couldn't look up. I ended up seeing Aubrey again and I could see she was frustrated. I found an opening in the crowd and waved her through. That was the last I would see her.

Since this is a trail, there were not a lot of spectators. I really liked that. It felt just like a normal long run.  The only difference was that there were a lot more people. Miles two through four were wonderful. The temps were great, all through the woods and I have separated myself from the core group of runners. The mile markers were posted at every .9 mile, since the marathoners would be running the same route. I never looked at my watch except when it went off. Mile splits: Mile two: 9:01 Mile Three: 9:08 Mile Four: 9:06.

I was feeling so good at mile four I almost forgot to take my chew! The start of mile five was a water stop. It started to get very narrow. Like two people wide narrow. I got stuck behind a woman shorter than me running with a woman who was easily a foot taller than me. I have no idea how long I got stuck for, but I had nowhere to go. I decided to stride this mile, save a little bit. When I saw the marker, there was a little bit of room to get around them. I made my move. Mile Five: 9:20.

Mile six and seven were the last few miles of full on trails. It widened a little bit, but I was pretty much alone at this point. I was very okay with it. I have to look down because there are so many tree roots that I did not want to hurt myself. There were a few spectators out at this point, we are closer to homes. They were very nice and offered anything they could to runners. I thanked them all. Mile Six: 9:08 Mile Seven: 9:09.

So out of mile seven we made a turn out of the trail under and overpass. I have been near this woman for a little bit and we made the turn together. I looked out to what was ahead, and it was a huge hill. I was really excited! The lady next to me was less than thrilled, screaming out a four letter word that started with an F. I giggled and pushed up that hill.

Almost to the top of the hill, I had a man ask me what point we were in the race. This is the first time I looked at my watch for overall time. I said we were 7.5 miles in and 1:06 total time. Wait, 1:06? I’m real fast. Uh Oh. Well, keep pushing up this hill! The entire mile was the hill and I crushed it. Mile Eight: 8:37.

We made it to the top of the hill and had a bit of a clearing in mile nine. I took my next fuel and still felt amazing. The later part of mile nine was another hill. I was passing people left and right. Everyone looked to be struggling but I felt amazing. Mile Nine: 8:45.

Mile ten was a little downhill, a little flat. I could hear a DJ and people talking. Hmmm, I think I may be near a park. I found two guys who were keeping a pretty awesome pace and decided to stick with them. I again hear a “GO STEFF” yell, and there was my mom and a clock. The clock read 1:27 with a sign that said mile 9.9. Holy crap, I’m going sub-2! Mile 10: 8:38.

It is at this point that I realized I have not tried to refill my water bottle, which is something I wanted to work on. I decided right after the 10 mile mark, I was going to try. So I went up to the water table, and I could not get the lid off my bottle. SERIOUSLY! I still had water in there, so I took the cup and just drank from it. Well, there goes that plan.

We left the park and headed back towards the river. We ran across a really cute bridge and down two hills. I am not a great downhill runner so I looked a little like a baby deer trying to get her legs under her. I was encouraging people as I was going. I really felt great. There was one man sitting in a camping chair at the mile marker cheering us on. I thanked him and started the final push. Mile 11: 8:25.

Mile 12 was when we made the turn to run along the river. It was the final bit of trail. I was still trying to talk to people who looked like they were struggling. I met a man who said that he injured his back on Friday and just wanted to finish. I told him he looked great and was almost done. Mile 12: 8:33.

LAST MILE!!! We are back on concrete at this point. Under a bridge and I can see the finish line on the other side of the river. I look to my left, and there are runners going over the bridge we are under. HOW COOL! Which also meant there is another hill to attack before the finish. I made it to the uphill and there was a woman walking. I tried to entice her to run with a sub-2 looming. She was cramping really bad and told me to keep going. I pushed up that hill as fast as I could. Turned onto the bridge and started to pick up the pace. I want to be done. Mile 13: 8:22.

I turned right onto the road where the finish line is. I see tons of people and hear announcers. I took out my headphones and took it all in. I finished with two other people, who I ran the last mile with. They were announcing names of the finishers. Right before I got to the finish line I heard the announcer say, “Let’s give it up for our sub-2 hour half marathoners!” Holy crap, I wonder what my time is! I crossed the finish line, stopped my watch and heard my name announced. I raised my hands, got my medal and could not believe how much better I felt from my last half. I finally looked at my watch and it said 1:56:51. Almost a full minute faster than Pittsburgh!

I found my mom and she said she missed me finish. I told her that was because that was not the plan. I told her I would be 2:05-2:10, and I was almost ten minutes faster! I got my victory beer and we walked around until the first marathoner finished.

That's New Jersey!

While I was so excited for my second fastest half marathon, I had the sudden realization that 9:30 felt very slow. Heck, 9:20 felt very slow! I have zero idea what to expect for Columbus! This was not the plan! Not the plan at all!  I guess I will just have to let things happen and go with the flow!

I highly recommend this race. I really want to do it again. I have a feeling I could probably get my half PR on this course. Very small field compared to what I’m used to and a nice finishers area. If you need an early September race, look into it!


  1. Congrats on an awesome race! You crushed it. I am excited to see what you will do in Columbus. I have my half marathon in Erie on Sunday so I guess I will see where I am at

  2. awesome job! i'm so excited to hear about columbus since this race went so well for you!

  3. Steffany Smith RubelSeptember 10, 2014 at 6:51 AM

    Thank you!

  4. Steffany Smith RubelSeptember 10, 2014 at 6:51 AM

    Good luck! I'm starting to get excited for Columbus!!

  5. I ran this race too and it's so fun to hear other runners perspectives on it! Great recap and great job!!!