Custom Search

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Bar harbor half marathon

The morning we left Mount Desert Island, David and I stopped in Bar Harbor so I could run the Bar Harbor half marathon literately on our way out of town. It was kind of a bad idea to plan it this way, because my legs were sore the whole week from up-and-down hiking. I am not used to hills at all, and even light hiking makes me sore. A better plan would have been a race the first day of the trip, but such is life!
I had some trepidation registering for this race. It would be the longest distance I've run in...I don't know. I think at least a year and a half. My recent training has indicated that I haven't yet built stamina back, and I was pretty sure I would be disappointed in my time.
Then, of course, there were the environmental factors; the timing, the hilly course, the four hour drive and two flights right after. Not ideal: but then, what race is ever run in ideal conditions?

Add this to the list of races that isn't, because we had unseasonably warm weather all week, and - like every single other race I have ever traveled for - the temperatures were much higher than expected. We had high 70's - low 80's for the race, with high humidity (I didn't check it right before the race - it was 100% that morning, but I know my humidity levels, and it was nowhere near that for the race - maybe 70% or 75%).

Prior to the race, I'd plugged in my 5.5 mile portion of Hood to Coast and my recent 4 mile race times to the McMillan calculator, and it predicted 1:38 for the half.
One thirty-eight! But after last week's cool and pleasant 12 miler on totally flat ground, I realized that if I duplicated that pace on race day - on a much harder course - sure enough, I'd be running 1:38. This was a little humbling, because that is not at all what I'd like my half-marathon time to be. But the numbers don't lie!

David and I arrived at the race start with plenty of time to spare, so I went to the bathroom and picked up my packet before trying to find the start. Oddly, no one was milling by the start and it wasn't until 5 minutes to gun that the announcer came out and told us to make our way to a line on the street but stay on the sides - the roads were not closed. We rapidly assembled. Knowing my predicted time, I settled in the middle, even though it was not a chip-timed race.
The gun went off, and we ran straight up a hill for a long time. Right away the fronts of my calves hurt. They'd started hurting after my first run in Maine, since I never use those muscles unless going uphill (which of course, I never do). No chance of going out too fast for this one! Eventually we turned a sharp corner as we went back downhill, then back up, then back part of this race was on flat ground except the couple of yards on the grass at the finish. Mile 1, mostly downhill, was 7:11.
The race was described as "challenging" with nine miles on the carriage roads (packed dirt and small gravel) in Acadia National Park. We entered the park...uphill...and I realized that it is really hard to run up or down on gravel - you can't get traction going up, and you slide going down. It also took me until mid-race to realize that I should be running in the middle, most-packed area of the road - the gravel was thicker and harder to run on at the edges.

The part of the race in the park was beautiful! We circled Eagle Lake and had some stunning views - and parts were nicely shaded, which gave us a break from the heat. Early in the park I was running alongside another girl, and a couple of guys were talking to us. I sped up to pass the girl because I could tell she was already tired, and one of the guys came with me; he was a Godsend. He was a local runner and described the course elevation in detail so I knew what to expect. That meant that I wasn't shocked to face a steep two-mile climb at the half-way point! Luckily, it was a loop course, and I knew that what goes up must come down - but man, that was tough. Actually, the whole thing was tough. I really struggle on hills, especially knowing how to pace, and I think if I had access to hills I'd be a much, much stronger runner. As it was, I just toiled away, then charged down the downhills. Mile 2: 8:02 (all uphill), miles 3, 4, 5: 7:25, 7:34, 7:20 (up and downhill; gradually climbing). The gradual climbing was rewarded with a sharp downhill half-mile, followed by the start of the two-mile climb (7:01).
That two-mile uphill, though...mile 7: 8:22; mile 8, in which we crested the hill and suddenly basically fell back down was 6:53 (I went from running 9:30's to 6:00's in the same mile! The downhill was really steep!).
Things went back to up-and-down for awhile after that: mile 9, 7:16; mile 10:7:23. Then we left the park and started climbing again, but finally we weren't running on gravel, so that was nice. As you leave the park, you have more hills along a highway, and again, the roads were not closed, so that was a tad nerve-wracking.
Mile 11: 7:27. Mile 12 returned to ups and downs; 7:23, then finally I hit mile 13, a downhill mile. Between being downhill and being paved, I ran my fastest mile at 6:48, with the last bits at 6:20 pace. I regret that another girl was running near me at this point, and she pulled away in the last two miles and I didn't even try to chase her.  The last mile is mostly downhill,  but by then my legs were so sore it was hard to sprint! I finished on the grass as 5th female, 2nd in my AG, at...ugh, this is so embarrassing...1:37:12. My average pace was pretty close to the 7:30's I expected, but on the uphills I could be in the 8's, and downhill in the low 6's.

That, then is my benchmark: I'm a 1:37 halfer for now, and I know what to work on. At least now I know!


  1. I was in a similar boat the year I ran the St. George marathon. There was one logical way for us to plan the trip -- fly out early, hike in Bryce and Zion parks for a few days, run the marathon, then celebrate in Vegas afterward -- flipping that made no sense since booze-less Vegas isn't much fun, and hiking on post-marathon legs would have sucked, so I had tired legs for that marathon. Great result nonetheless, and impressive prediction by McMillan! I think big mile spreads is normal with the elevation, and I'm sure you'd have a stronger race on a cool, flat, paved course, so that should make you feel good too!

  2. Sounds like a tough course. A 2 mile uphill? No thank you. You did great!

  3. I think you did great considering that you are still coming back from an injury, the weather wasn't optimal and it was a challenging course! I am sure it's tough to see times like this knowing what you did in the past, though. But I for one think you did awesome!

  4. It's funny how things are all relative. I'd be pleased as heck if I ran a 1:37 on a hilly course post-2 hip surgeries and an average (or peak?) mileage of 40 mpw over the past few months of coming back. I know it's not anywhere near a PR for you, but all things considered, it's nothing to be embarrassed about. I think it was a fine race for you given your comeback status. Jazz Half will be faster. Keep on keepin' on!

  5. Agree, still an amazing job for being the farthest you've run in 1.5 years AND doing it kind of on a whim without really training! (And oof...the gravel....oof.) I actually think I need to get back into this mindset of sometimes just racing when the opportunity presents itself, even if I know I'm not in top shape or suspect I'll be disappointed in my performance, rather than waiting for the *perfect* day/race. (Because, you're right, it never really is.)

  6. Oof, that course sounds brutal. That 2 mile uphill? Woof. I'm actually spectating a couple of my friends in the Mount Desert Island marathon in a couple of weeks, and I'm guessing parts of the course are the same...I may have to find that hill and have my cowbell ready. Solid race though, all things considered! I love the idea of a random race while on vacation.

    1. Oh, cool! I accidentally clicked on the Mt. Dessert Island marathon website several times while considering running the bar harbor half; there is a great description of the course on the site (and while there seem to be a lot of hills, after the first 3 miles it doesn't follow the same course). It sounds like a lovely race. Have fun spectating!