Cook Forest Half Marathon

Well, yesterday I finished my first half marathon, the Cook Forest Half Marathon in Cooksburg, Pa., 20 minutes north of Clarion and Brookville, in the northwestern part of the state.

The numbers for me break down like this:

  • I finished in 2:45:38, or at a 12:39 per mile pace.
  • My halfway split was recorded at 1:12:20, or about 11:03 per mile up until that point.
  • My second half then was 1:33:18, or about 14:15 per mile from the halfway point to the end. (Ouch!)
  • I started my first mile at a 9:40 pace (again, ouch! for me)
  • I finished 326 out of 329, or fourth from last place; last place in my age category, 35-39; second to last out of 202 men (the results page calculated that, I’m not trying to be sexist or anything, and considering that 125 of the 127 women finished ahead of me, I don’t think I am even being close to that 🙂

I reported in my last blog about what I was taking to the race so I won’t rehash all that, just to say that I forgot the long-sleeved shirt and was slightly distressed by that. But hey, I remembered the most important thing: my shoes. I mean, what’s a runner, or even one like me who is working toward being a runner, without his/her shoes?

I also reported in my last blog that I was a little nervous about the race, because I hadn’t prepared as well as I would have liked. Overall, that proved to be the case as again, just like in my practice half the weekend previously, I “tanked” on about mile 9 and mainly walked the last four miles. Skipping the long runs (obviously) in February didn’t help my endurance at all and is something I will need to work on for my next half marathon, which will be later in the year. I, and my wife, Kim, went down to Clarion on Friday night and stayed overnight at a Comfort Inn there. She made the reservations a few months ago. It’s about three and half to four hours from where we live in northcentral Pennsylvania. We arrived at the hotel about 11 p.m. after stopping for dinner in Coudersport. I had fish at a restaurant called Erway’s. I already had done the carb-loading the night before, but in hindsight, perhaps I should have done more the night before, although I’m guessing there are different philosophies. Got to bed about 12:15 after winding down, and trying to wind down my thoughts.

Saturday, awoke about 7:30, I think. Ate cornflakes, four pieces of raisin toast and milk (that I later learned was sour; I don’t have a very good sense of taste, but my wife does) at the continental breakfast at the hotel. Left for race at about 9 a.m. On way, realized might need a long-sleeved shirt, because it felt a little chilly. Went looking for one at nearby Big KMart. Didn’t find. Still made it to race by 10 a.m., plenty of time to check in, get fitted with chip timer, which was a first time for that for me. I guess I’ve run in so many small races that they don’t even have chip timing. Or else they just have bibs. Didn’t even get a bib to put in my scrapbook (which still has yet to be done).

Warmed up just a little before the race, but even at almost 11, still not quite awake, probably could have done with a little more sleep. Comment overhead by one runner to another before the race: “I’m going to be going slow today, about an 8-minute pace.” As a penguin, I always have to bite my tongue at that one, but somehow controlled myself.

First mile: a 9:40 per mile pace, which while for some is none too fast, was for me. I tried slowing down as I was into the first mile, thanks to two 50-something ladies who were talking to each other about how fast the pace was this year in comparison to others and something to the effect that they had 12.5 miles to go. I agreed and took their pace and was still at 9:40 by the first mile.

First 6.5 miles: by mile 4, I began walking, just for a 60-second break, followed by running again. My intent was to walk again when I got to mile 8. Unfortunately, I think I began walking just about mile 7…I think that seeing all the runners pass me on the way back by (the course was an out-and-back route on a running trail — paved) didn’t help my motivation, although I guess I did continue to run while I saw the majority of them. Some cheered me and the other runners around me on, saying “almost halfway” or “you’re doing good,” even though I thought I could have been doing better, but knew I went out too fast by my standards. Also along the way, I tried keeping pace with those two ladies and if I had prepared better, I would have been able to. They ran at about a 10-minute pace. However, they were encouraging just to talk to briefly and one of them gave me sports beans (?) to help with energy, which I really don’t know if they did or not. I threw a couple out after eating only a few others, because they didn’t taste that good.

Second 6.5 miles: by mile 8, I had begun a combination of running and walking, and by mile 9, I was almost walking the entire time. By mile 10, I was thinking about DNF (did not finish) but decided if I had gotten this far, if I had to crawl back to the finish line, I would. By mile 11, my right calf muscle was pulling and when I tried to run, it didn’t help so I decided if I had to walk the rest of the way, I would. It’d be better to finish walking than to not finish at all, I reasoned with myself. By mile 12, which began the only significant hill on the course, I was encouraging one of the other runners in front of me, telling her she could do it, even though she said she couldn’t. She said it was her first marathon too. She did finish and in front of me…the last mile, I attempted to run a bit, but could feel the muscle pulling so went back to walking.

At the end of the race, my wife was there waiting for me with her digital camera and a cup of water — also had been water and Gatorade on the course, provided by Clarion University cross country and track and field team members. They were already announcing the winners of the half and 5K, and nobody really turned around to see me finish (not that I expected them to stop and say, “Hey, woo hoo, look at that guy finishing…great job,” although, heck, that would have been nice). I also got a massage, provided by Clarion University students, which to any racer out there, I highly recommend, especially after a long run. I think it really helped me. The one therapist kept asking, “Does this hurt?” and I kept telling him if it did, he would be the first to know. He could tell my right calf muscle (sorry, I don’t know the technical term and after writing this all afternoon, I’m not going to look it up) was tight. My father later said that I should have just screamed just to get the guy going. I guess I was too tired to think of it then.

After the race, went back to hotel, grabbed a much needed shower and then my wife and I went to dinner at a restaurant called RRR Roadhouse. I had steak, sweet potato, and treated myself to a Bahama Mama. Took half of the meal back to the hotel for later, but did stop and get an ice cream cone at a TCBY, and a fruit smoothie, which I have to say probably was the best idea of the post-race recovery. Later in the night, in between watching the Final Four back at the hotel, also enjoyed a jacuzzi.

Other impressions (like can there be any more after this tome?):

  • I took off socks and toes were purple. Already discovered on Friday night, that right pinky toe had a blood blister, but now all my toes on both feet were purple and nice big blister on right large toe
  • The course itself was B-O-R-I-N-G. While my lack of preparation, especially with long runs, didn’t help the cause, neither did the course, which was out and back along a stream on a paved trail. Maybe if the weather had been nicer, it was about 60 degrees and overcast, it would have been a nicer run, but even still, I’ve always hated out-and-back courses. I’d rather have some variety and why I’m looking forward to running some trail runs to put in a little adventure
  • The day before race, went to see a neighbor, and I told him about race and my concerns. He said, “As long as you don’t finish DFL?” “DFL?” I asked. “Dead F—ing Last.” I told him, “Well, I might.” I have to be honest that was in the back of my mind and I kept looking over my shoulder to see if there was anyone behind me.
  • However, another part of me was, and is proud of the man, who finished in last place. He finished in 3:37 or at an almost 16 minute per mile pace. I saw him walking earlier out on the course and was amazed that he was out there. I wish I had some way to get in contact with him to tell him that he had nothing to be ashamed of, he was out there, doing the best he could, and plus I don’t know his circumstances. We really never know another person’s circumstance, so who are we to judge? My own circumstance has taught me that…

3 responses to “Cook Forest Half Marathon

  1. thats a new one DFL.

  2. Yes, more details like pee!–Joe

  3. I’m surprised you didn’t tell us how many times you peed during your trip. Man, and i thought I was detailed! Ha. Hey, just kidding I enjoyed the detail, I just know you had said something about it and being worried. I’m proud of you too and I know this is only the first step in a long journey for you. Its awesome that you set a goal and went for it. You and Kim both have been a real inspiration to us.