2015 Memorial Day Races Half Marathon

31 May 2015

On Sunday, May 24th, 2015, I ran the Memorial Day Races Half Marathon. The race is held in Lenox, MA at the Tanglewood music venue.

Race Venue: It was easy enough finding the race entrance to Tanglewood in the AM. However, I expected there’d be some signage pointing runners to the start of the race. Waiting in line for the bathroom before the race, at least 2 people asked where the race started. I just followed the “crowd” down a paved path to the start of the race around 7:40 AM, but it’d be nice if the race organizers addressed that in future years. I say “crowd” because it’s not a large race in terms of runners. At least that oversight was unexpected given this was the 6th year of the races.

The Albany Running Exchange was in charge of timing the race. They’re a fantastic local organization and there were no issues at all with timing of the race.

Race: There were 206 finishers for the half marathon and 107 finishers for the marathon. Over the course of running the half marathon, there were a handful of runners I’d meet here and there, but it was largely a race without a lot of other runner or crowd contact. I do appreciate those runs where you’re able to lose yourself in the run and you can more fully appreciate the sights and sounds along the course. I did want to stop at one point towards the end of the run. There was a house that was obviously cooking breakfast as the smell of bacon wafted heavily over that part of the course.

Unfortunately I threw out the printed course map for the half marathon which had the aid stations marked. I didn’t pay much attention to the aid stations along the course as I went out with my own nutrition/hydration. The course was sectioned off on the roads around the Berkshires with cones, but the roads were still open. However, the race is run on nearly all back roads that didn’t see much traffic in the early morning, so there weren’t many cars to worry about along the course. As I remember it, the most people that I saw on the course were when the course made its way through Stockbridge, MA and passing the Red Lion Inn. So, if you’re looking for a race with a lot of crowd support, this is not that race.

Here’s the elevation chart with grades for the race.

It does get hilly in the last part of the race, but it wasn’t too terrible. At least I enjoyed them.

Most of the race is wooded country roads after you leave the Tanglewood venue. The view highlights for me were running through the Stockbridge, MA area, in particular the Stockbridge Golf Course and the town itself. There were a few golfers out at the time I ran by, but it was otherwise very peaceful to look over the golf course covered by hint of morning fog.

Nutrition/Hydration: I had dinner the night before at Trattoria Il Vesuvio. I ordered the Zucchini Alla Parmigiana as my appetizer and the Penne Alla Vodka with a side of meatballs as my main course. I ended up tackling most of the penne and a few meatballs, but there was still a good amount of pasta that I took back to the hotel that night and ate the following day for dinner. For dessert I ordered the house made Tiramisu. Overall it was a good meal.

Before the race in the AM, I started with around 16 oz. of lemon-lime Gatorade Endurance. This has been a different approach to pre-race fueling and hydration that my running coach has started me on. I’m not entirely sold on it as it usually means I have to urinate frequently before the race. Typically I’d have knocked back a GU Energy gel 15 minutes before the start of the race. We’ll see if this approach continues.

I went out with my 2-bottle FuelBelt, using 2 10 oz. bottles. The hydration mixture was water and Nuun lemon-lime hydration tablets. I do remember slowing down at a water/Gatorade station around the 2nd mile on the course to try and see how the slow sip would work out, but I still find it too awkward to slow down and drink from a cup and run at the same time. Also, it feels too early in the race to have to slow down for water, as by then I’m settled into my pace for the race. Compared to other races, I think I was much better about pacing out my liquid intake, usually taking a sip or two every half-mile, and a few more after knocking back a GU. I went out with 3 GU Energy Gels, 2 Vanilla Bean and 1 Caramel Macchiato, and had one at miles 4 (Vanilla Bean), 8 (Caramel Macchiato), and 12 (Vanilla Bean).

After the race I had a recovery shake using a recipe that my running coach gave me (greek yogurt, almond breeze, water, almond butter, small banana, and ginger powder). It’s enough calories for me to get through my post-race stretching routine and a shower before getting out to breakfast.

Results: My running coach had the following set out for me for this first “official” half marathon of 2015: “Start off first 3 miles conservatively then settle into half marathon pace of 8:20 min/mile. If you feel good then try to pick up the pace by 10 sec or more in the final 3 miles.”

For the past two and a half months, I’ve been running with a Garmin watch. If you had asked me last year about wearing a Garmin, I’d have shot you a dirty look, but I’m 100% sold on it now (or really any device that’ll help you know your pace during a run). It’s definitely helped me to improve my running and pacing. I’m not sure I could’ve been as consistent as I was with my splits during this half marathon if I wasn’t wearing my Garmin. There was really no timing feedback along the course.

I ended up finishing with a time of 1:47:59 at an overall pace of 8:15 min/mi. As I’ve discussed with a lot of people when talking about this race: it wasn’t my fastest half marathon, it wasn’t my slowest half marathon, but I feel it was my most consistent half marathon. I ran nearly even splits the entire race, save for the few hills between miles 8 and 9 and 12 and 13. In those 2 sections, my pace was slower (around 8:40 min/mile), but compared to other half marathons with hills that I’ve run, I felt more comfortable in those sections. As with any training, it’s something I’ll be able to improve on going forward. And in the 2 miles before mile 12, I ran those at 8:02 min/mile and 8:01 min/mile, so I was happy to have some fuel for the final “fight” as my coach had set out.

Until the next race…