Rollin Irish Half Marathon Race Report

by nomeatbarefeet

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

While this is an overused cliche it does a good job describing the day, which started off on a bad note: we left our shoes at home.

The race is called Rollin Irish because it goes down a road by the same name…which happens to have lots and lots of hills. The road also happens to cross another road that Katie’s sister lives on (Old Stage Rd), so we stayed with them the night before. We got up around 7am for a 9am start, but then, horror of horrors we realized that we left our shoes back in St. Albans. With that Katie took off to retrieve them. She got back with just enough time to spare, but the drama didn’t end. Even though the start was only 10 minutes away we didn’t know where to park, then we still had to register Katie, and then walk the 6 tenths of a mile to the start. We made it right when the announcer was saying, “Ok, we will start in about 2 minutes.” Jesh, talk about anxiety.

The Course

The course was about 70% dirt road and 30% paved, with water stations at miles 5 and 9. As I mentioned already there were lots of hills, some at a slow grade for almost half a mile, others small and rolling. The weather started off kind of chilly and then fluctuated back and for from warmer to colder. While there was a head wind to start it made for a nice tail wind after mile 9. The course can be divided up into 3 sections: miles 1-5; miles 5-9; and miles 9-13.1.

Miles 1-5 This consisted of small rolling hills and then a rather long downhill. The course went from paved to dirt and back again a few times.
Miles 5-9 Mile 6 had a long, steep, rolling uphill; and then it was a series of tough rolling hills and one more steep, long climb. This was mainly dirt road, except for Miles 5-6.
Miles 9-13.1 These were basically flat, with a slight uphill around 11 and all downhill to the finish. This was all dirt until we hit about Mile 12 when it went back to pavement.

The Race

Neither of us had any aspirations coming into this race. Katie had taken a fall on the trails the previous week and hadn’t run all that much in the weeks leading up to the race; Jon knew that the course was extremely hilly, and simply wanted to go out and make a decent run of it.

Apropos the shoes, both of us decided to run in our Merrell’s: Lythe Gloves for Katie and Trail Gloves for Jon (NB: Jon wanted to see how his feet felt running in them for that distance). Katie did not experience any discomfort (beyond the usual) or any blistering (yeah!); Jon, however, experienced some pain on the outside of the bottoms of his feet (though it did not linger that long after). This was probably due to the pace at the end of the race, but another factor might be the fact that neither of us run in our Merrell’s on pavement, and the pounding can certainly take a toll on the feet.

Thoughts on the Race

Katie ran most of the race on her own, maintaining the mental fortitude to push through the hills between miles 5 and 9. Despite her lack of training, and the knock on her knee she ran just shy of her time at the Lake Placid Half Marathon. There she had trained really hard and felt like she had really pushed herself to run a 2:12; whereas here she went out with no aspirations and very little training and ran a 2:16. That really speaks to the level of endurance and fitness she has built up.

Jon wound up hooking up with another runner around mile 3. The guy lived on Brigham Hill Road and as they ran by his house his family was out cheering and playing music. After Jon commented on the cheering section, which lead to them running together until the end of the race. While it was nice to chat and talk with someone, it also proved to be mutually beneficial: they pulled each other up the hills and paced each other to about a 7:40 pace, with Jon finishing in 1:40:37.

What also made the run pretty awesome was that we too had our very own cheering section! Katie’s sister (Erin), her husband (Chuck), and their two kids (Elliot and Inez) walked down to the water station at mile 9 to cheer us on. Elliot even brought some pinecones along for good luck (inside joke: pines are for Pine Cone Man, Jon’s superhero). While we have used their house as a layover between races it is rare that we get to have them come and cheer us on. Thanks Erin, Chuck, Elliot and Inez for making it a fun day!

Final Thoughts

While the run proved better than expected, it also confirmed our desire to try and run only trails. It is inevitable that we will have to run on roads, be it paved or dirt, but from now on we are being very selective about the races that we sign up for. In fact, this might be our last road race. That’s no guarantee, but our love of trails will certainly keep us striving to run in nature as much as we can.

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