Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Towpath Half Marathon Race Recap

When Kelsey and I were coming home from Rock 'n' Roll DC, she had mentioned that there was a half marathon near Cleveland in early April. It would be a really good race to attempt to run fast again, or just have a really nice training run. With everything that has been going on with my health, I wasn't really sure how this was going to go. I was going in to it as a warm up for the Pittsburgh Marathon.

My planned Pittsburgh Marathon outfit that I was wearing for this race as well. Different socks of course.

We went to Cleveland on Saturday and had a nice night of food and relaxing. I woke up Sunday morning with the same eye pain I have been dealing with, but luckily we left early enough that my medicine had started to kick in. We picked up our bibs and I ran my two warm up miles. I was suppose to run a two mile warm up, the half marathon and then a three mile cool down.

It was about 46 degrees at the start but it was quite windy. I was worried I would be cold in a tank, but I was surprised with how warm the sun was already. There were about 500 people running this race, and it was a weird course. It was pretty much a point to point with two out and backs build in.

I ended up lining up towards the front because we started on a downhill. Since I really have no goal for this I was going to let my body decide.


The downhill to the towpath was legit. I felt like I was flying. The headwind though was FREEZING and I was really wishing I brought some throw away gloves. By the time we got to the towpath it was already a mile in to the race. I felt really good and had decided at that point to go for it. This course really reminded me of my favorite place to run out in Eastern Pa, the Ironton Rail Trail. Very flat, paved and industry all around.

I did a really good job of focusing on my pace, not the people around me. There were two overpasses (some may consider these bridges) that I wanted to be strong on. I beasted my way up and down those overpasses and felt so strong passing people. Great confidence booster. After I got down the second overpass, which was around the three mile mark, I saw on the other side of the road was the five mile marker. Oh cool, I'm near a turnaround. I also saw the first place male and he was flying. It was really cool to see.

Miles 1-3: 7:44, 8:18, 8:22

So moving down the road to the turn around, which was around mile four, was kinda uneventful. I just wanted to focus on being consistent. My breathing felt really good and my body felt in control. Since I was using this race as a warm up for the marathon, I was using salt tabs to simulate race day. I took my first one at mile four (since it was six miles in to my work out) and it went down smooth. Good! Let's keep this going. It was around this time that I felt a warm sensation in my toes on my right foot. I figured I was just warming up and ignored it. Remember this.

Back up and down the overpasses I just picked people off one by one. I couldn't believe how great I felt! I settled in with a group of two women after the second overpass. The one had a TERRIBLE foot strike pattern and it was driving me crazy so I had to pass her. I also took half of my gel, which worked out really well. Finally after this many races, I have figured out my fueling!

Miles 4-6: 8:23, 8:17, 8:05 - 10k spilt 50:28.

Okay cool, that's just my fastest 10k since my half marathon PR. No big deal just keep going this pace feels great. I have been carrying Gatorade in my water bottle so it was around this time I stopped for water. It was like the jolt I needed. Alright body, let's go. It was kinda fun to have no idea where I was. At all. Was I here before? Turns out yes but I couldn't tell the difference. I'm literally on autopilot. The miles are clicking by so quickly.

Miles 7-9: 8:12, 8:21, 8:15

It was around mile 9.5 where we did a loop and turned back in to the headwind. Man, it was killer. When I turned in to the wind I felt my foot again. It felt soaking wet, kinda like a popped blister. I looked down and my shoe is red. Blood. Lots of blood. Great. Nothing you can do about it, keep moving.

Lots of blood.

I stayed with a man for awhile here. He was keeping a really good pace, but I don't think he wanted to be near me. That's fine, go on your way sir, I'm good here. I took my second salt tab around mile 10.5ish. Again, went down smooth and continued to move along. I also took the second half of my gel. Nice and smooth and not filling. Everything was clicking.

At the final water stop at the very start of mile 12 (since I had passed it twice before and I knew it was there) I stopped for water again. Did I need it? Maybe, but it retrospect I wish I would have skipped by. It was my slowest mile and I didn't realize it was that slow. The course would go down and then up hill quickly. This is not a hill to someone who lives in Pittsburgh. The one volunteer was telling me I could catch the runner in front of me. I told her I knew I could and then I did. 

Miles 10-13: 8:26, (10 mile split 1:22) 8:26, 8:50, 8:36

The final .1 was the longest part of the race. I saw the mile 13 sign. I knew it was .1 away but you cannot see the finish line until you are there. It's on the end of a bend and BAM you are there. I knew I was so close to being sub-1:50 but I wasn't sure. I sprinted. Looked at my watch and it said 1:50:05. My second fastest half marathon!

I walked over to the med tent and asked for a band-aid. Took off my bloody shoe and sock and there was a chuck of skin stuck to my sock and a separate chunk stuck to my toe nail. Since I got bandaged up quite nicely, I ended up skipping my three cool down miles. 

Guys my legs felt amazing. I wasn't winded and nothing hurt. Do I think I can hold that pace for 13.1 more miles, nope. Quite realistic about that. It was everything my mind needed leading up to the Pittsburgh Marathon. I finished 110 overall, 30th female and 8th in my age group. Pretty awesome showing despite everything I've been dealing with. Plus, I finally got a better proof of time for the Disney Marathon!!!!

This race was awesome. Very low key, amazing volunteers and a pretty fun post race party. Kinda weird course, but a race I would totally do again. Below is the course map and elevation chart. 

Have you ever had a surprise half marathon performance? Did you run Towpath?


  1. Great job girl, you did amazing!!

  2. You did an awesome job, considering everything you have been dealing with this past week, especially your eye. I hope that your foot is healing nicely - that sounded very painful!

    1. Thabks Kim! Blood stopped and "wound" has a scab. We are good to go!

  3. Awesome! Congratulations! So exciting when you have a good race like this & know you're in a good spot for your goal race. Ouch on the bloody foot though!

    1. Thanks Jennifer! The blood will go away but a 1:50 is forever!

  4. My PR is at Towpath from a few years ago! One of my favorite races! Congrats on a great time!