Monday, March 14, 2011

Roanoke Canal Trail Half Marathon: 2011 Race Report

post-race coffee and cheap pastry
It's funny, the things you'll let yourself eat after running a race, food you'd never eat in real life.

The Roanoke Canal Half Marathon and 8K Race this past Saturday featured donuts, danishes, trail mix, bananas, apples, pizza, and these things in the picture. I think they're called pin wheels, a snack-sized cousin of cinnamon rolls. Since I avoid dairy, these pin wheels served as my primary source of sustenance after the race. I was famished. And, there are only so many bananas a fellow can eat.

Before I get carried away, I want to post a big shout out to all the volunteers and race officials who made the Roanoke Canal Half Marathon and 8K possible. You were all fantastically encouraging and helpful!

I chose to participate in the Canal Race after receiving an email about it from the good folks who put together the Medoc Trail Race last year. They did such a good job of making that race fun, I figured they'd do the same for this Roanoke Canal Race.

not my photo of the Roanoke Canal Course
Course photo borrowed from here.
At first, I was hesitant to register for this race, because the description indicated that it would be on a flat course "that is waiting for you to set a PR." Sure, it's a trail race. But, what's a trail race without a bunch of hills with roots and rocks to slow a runner down?

As I thought about it a bit more, I figured that running a flat course would be a lot of fun. It'd give me a chance to finally figure out what sort of pace I could run in a road race without having to actually run on the road. Besides, I hadn't raced a half marathon yet.

Viewing the lake before the Roanoke Canal Race
The lake that blew cold wind at us while waiting for the race to start.
It was chilly on race morning. But the temps promised to climb into the low fifties by the end of the race. There was a cold wind blowing over the starting area from across the lake. So, I waited in my car for a while before we were called to the line.

According to my predicted pace time, I was assigned to run in the first wave at the start. The race director asked us all to think about the recent catastrophe in Japan and how lucky we all were to be running. I clapped, because I was glad to be reminded. Then we ran.

I started out fast, probably a little too fast. I wore my watch this time. And, I was impressed to see that I managed to maintain a 7:02 pace for the first two miles. I'd never noted paces per mile before.

not my photo of the Roanoke Canal Course
Course photo borrowed from here.
Then I realized that I should slow down a smidgen, because I could feel myself getting a little tired too soon. By mile six, I was definitely hurting. But, that's how it is supposed to be, right?

The out-and-back course proved as serene and beautiful as I presumed it would be after viewing these photos.

Roanoke Rapids is an industrial town, from what I saw. And, perhaps the most interesting landmark along the course was a huge refinery of some sort with billowing "smoke" spewing from the smoke stacks. It didn't stink, though, the smoke. So, I just gawked at the immensity of the architecture.

Anyway, with the exception of a couple curse-worthy hills on the return trip, the course was flat and soft. There were a couple of road crossings, one of which required traffic to stop and wait for us. And, the spartan muddy sections made for some fun footing. It was easy to pass people at pretty much any point.

I owe thanks to a couple of people who served as challengers for me:
Dude in the light-blue shirt: You definitely pushed me for the middle section of the race. And, first-place-overall girl: You were an inspiration for miles ten-ish through eleven-ish. Awesome running!

a finish-line photo from the Roanoke Canal Race
Random finish-line photo: That's not me receiving the medal, there. But, the scene was probably similar to this one when I finished my race.
As I rounded a sharp turn toward the finish line, I managed to avoid slipping on the leaves while mustering as much energy as I could for a fast finish. The finish-line staff handed me the finisher's medal and, even better, a bottle of water. I was very thirsty after finishing in 1:38:xx.

While waiting for the awards ceremony to begin, I went back to my car and put on some jeans, since that cold wind from the lake was still blowing. Then I wandered around eating bananas and those cinnamon things. Runners gathered to watch live race results appear on a flat-screen tv, which was a nice distraction from stretching.

Awards ceremony at the Roanoke Canal Race
Racers congregate and clap during the awards ceremony.
The race director announced the awards for the 8K race first. And, naturally, the half marathon awards followed. The overall half-marathon winner finished in 1:25:18. My humble finish time garnered a third-place age group award for me, though: a pint glass with the race logo. That and the long-sleeve tech shirt made for some pretty nice race swag.

So, as I type this report two days after the race, I realize that I'm more sore than I've ever been after a race. This is strange to me, since there were very few inclines on the course. Maybe I should have done a recovery run yesterday in order to shake out some of the muscle stiffness. Or, maybe I ran with more effort than my body expected. Whatever the cause, I'm glad that the soreness in my legs is the good kind, not the injury kind.

In short, the Roanoke Canal Half Marathon is a fantastic race on an easy course that beats running on pavement any day. I'll definitely keep this on my calendar for next year. You should, too.
pint glass awardThe pint glass award
pint glass awardThe weapons of choice: Inov-8 f-lite 230 (the black ones)

Roanoke Canal race swagThe Roanoke Canal Half Marathon shirt and finisher's medal

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