Race Recap: 2014 Buffalo Creek Half Marathon

This was my second year running Buffalo Creek, and I enjoyed it just as much as last year. The course is gorgeous, it's very well organized, and the volunteers are fantastic. This year I finished 9 minutes faster than last year--a really nice PR!

Pre-Race Nerves
Since my goal was to run 1 minute/mile faster than last year, I got myself all worked up the week before the race. When I did, all of you guys--a truly awesome community of runners--were right there to calm me down here or pm Daily Mile. Thank you! Friday night I was melting inside and was so nervous I was seriously considering not even running the race (note: I do this before every race) and thinking I would never sign up for another race again. Luckily, my husband had rented a dumb comedy (Wanderlust with Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd) that helped get my mind off the race until it was bed time. When I woke up, I didn't feel nervous at all. I felt ready and excited for the race. Yay!

Race Outfit
I had two outfits planned, one for cooler weather and the other for warmer. I went back and forth over what to wear as Saturday's weather forecast fluctuated. I'd wear the cooler weather outfit it were going to be cooler than 50 and the warmer if were 50 or above. On race day, the forecast was for a solid 50 degrees plus a chance of rain and wind. I decided on the warmer weather outfit.
Lululemon Purple Fog Cool Racerback & Bangbuster
Lululemon Bordeaux Drama Speed Tights
Athleta White Chi Top
I am a huge fan of the Speed Tights. I was able to fit three gels into the waistband--two in the front pockets and an emergency one in the back pocket. The gels fit perfectly--I just have them pulled out to show where they go.
I hate running in hats but knew I should wear one because of the chance or rain. I decided to carry a hat in one of the side pockets in case it started raining instead of wearing it the whole race.
I parked at the Lernerville Speedway, picked up my bib and tee, then took a shuttle to the start line. The bib pickup was well organized and went quickly. I love the shirt. I love bright orange for early-morning runs in the dark, and I loved the tasteful logo at the top.

When I walked my dog before leaving, it felt warm and wasn't raining in Pittsburgh. When I got to the speedway in Sarver, it was freezing and raining. The rain stopped by the time I boarded the shuttle, but I was actually shivering and wished I'd worn the other outfit.

Starting Line
Another nice thing about this race is that they give you bags to drop off at the start line and pick up at the finish line, so I was able to wear a coat with a hood to stay warm and dry before the race started and then be able to have something warm when I finished.

I was also able to bring some extra water to take my Salt Stick and Clif Shot Gel before the race started. The radar map looked clear, so I left my hat in the bag instead of carrying it with me.

Port-a-Potty lines

I saw Shelly and Andrea from SCRR, who I ran with a few weeks ago, and we lined up at the start together. They planned to run an 11-minute mile, so I decided to follow them.

Here's the SCRR group shot. I was hesitant to join in since I'm a new member, but everyone is so nice and welcomed me!

The starting line was slightly different this year, moved back just a bit. There were no signs with paces to advise where to line up like last year, so we just tried to stay in the back.
Very cold at the start once I took my jacket off
We were busy gabbing when all of a sudden the crowd starting running, and I was like, "Are we starting?!" I hadn't heard the national anthem or anything, so it was kind of a surprise start.

Miles 1-3
1: 10:38 | 2: 10:53 | 3: 11:09
The entire first mile is downhill, so it is very difficult to start slowly. We started at about a 10:30 pace, and I knew I didn't want to go out that fast, so I let Andrea and Shelly go and stepped on the brakes. Still, I did not meet one of my goals to run miles 1-3 no faster than a 10:50 pace, as my first mile was 10:38. The first 1.5-2 miles were on a road and through a residential area before the course goes onto the Butler Freeport Community Trail. Race proceeds go to support this trail, which is awesome. Like last year, many people who lived on the street we ran on were out cheering us on, and I loved the little cheering section who told us, "You're almost there!" I felt like I'd been running too fast in the first two miles so really tried to pull back on mile 3 and realized too late that I pulled back a bit too much, but no biggie.

Miles 4-6
4: 10:58 | 5: 11:04 | 6: 10:57
Once on the trail, I saw that it was just as gorgeous as I remembered it. This has to be one of the prettiest trails in the area. The fall leaves were in full bloom and brightened an otherwise dreary day. The trail follows a creek that I assume is Buffalo Creek and, at times, there were little waterfalls. There were also pretty rock outcroppings along the trail. The trail is crushed limestone and, combined with the damp fallen leaves, made for a soft, cushiony course that my feet were very happy to run on. The trail was so beautiful and I was enjoying it so much that I nearly forgot I was in a race! I had no problem at all keeping to my goal 11:00 pace and was pretty happy to see my splits. There were many volunteers taking pictures along the trail. Because it will likely take some time for them to post their pictures, I don't have any of me along the trail, but here's one from a volunteer that shows what the trail was like for part of the course (other parts of were more covered.)

Of course, I was happy that I didn't dress too warmly once I got going. My outfit was perfect, as I wasn't too hot or cold. It misted a bit, which felt awesome, and it rained lightly for a few minutes, which I didn't mind at all. The sun didn't come out the entire time, which was fine with me since I hate running in the sun.

Miles 7-9
7: 10:57 | 8: 11:00 | 9: 11:18
The miles flew by. I couldn't believe how fast the race was going, and I also couldn't believe how easily I was able to hold my goal pace. I kept telling myself, "You are doing awesome! You are so strong!" I slowed a bit in mile 9 but wasn't worried about it and let myself take a little break.

Miles 10-13
10: 11:22 | 11: 11:30 | 12: 12:09 | 13: 12:17 | .1: 9:30
And then came mile 10. At the end of mile 9 I got a side stitch that lasted for about a mile. It was nothing too big, but it was just enough to be annoying and slow me down. Also around this time, the trail had been covered in new asphalt. It wasn't awful, but I really missed the soft crushed limestone we'd been running on. By mile 11, I was tired and just wanted to be done. I wasn't hurting anymore, but I felt pretty depleted. Thinking back, I wish I'd taken the third Clif Shot Gel I brought for an emergency, but even the thought of just getting the gel out of my back pocket and taking it was too much for me. I tried to focus on the beauty of the trail but wasn't able to mentally focus for very long at all. I resorted to doing intervals where I'd run at a faster pace for a short distance and then slow back down. I also took a short walk break after every mile. By mile 12, my gas tank was completely on empty. I saw my slow pace on my Garmin, but I absolutely didn't care. Every race goal I had was completely gone from my mind except for one: Finish. I was just so tired. The last mile was really rough. I tried to speed up, knowing that it was the last mile and hearing the volunteers saying how close the finish line was, and then even hearing the people at the finish line. I think I did manage to speed up a bit, but then came the hill. It was short, but steep. I walked it--the entire hill. And I walked slowly at that. It had to have been several minutes of walking, and I know that hurt me in the end. Once I got to the top of the hill, I could see the finish line area. I let my legs open up and ran at a pretty good pace down the hill and toward the finish line. Still, right before the finish, both my feet went numb. That's new! My Garmin shows my last sprint to the finish was a nice 9:30 pace.

My husband was there to get these shots of me crossing the finish line--too bad my eyes are closed!


Stats per my Garmin: 13.20 miles (I did actually pass a good number of people but was surprised I'd been weaving that much), 2:28, 11:13 pace

Official results: 2:28, 11:19 pace  

The nice race medal, made locally in Freeport.

Race Organization and Volunteers
The organization of this race was really great. My only complaint would have been pace signs at the start line to tell us where to start. Between emails and the race's Facebook page, communication was great. There were so many volunteers, and all were fantastic. Because there are only a few places along the course for spectators, they were all great cheerleaders, telling us how great we were doing and how much farther we had to go. One volunteer was even handing out soft paper towels to wipe sweat or blow noses. And many volunteers were on the course taking pictures, which they will upload to Shutterfly for everyone to download. I did not stay long at the finish line and took only a banana, but it looked there was plenty of food (pizza, fig bars, smiley cookies) and drinks (hot apple cider!) still available, which is always nice when you finish in the back of the back. Overall, this is a fantastic race, and I'll definitely do it again next year!

Review of My Goals
1. Don't start out too fast. I don't want to run the first three miles faster than a 10:50-11:00 pace but will try to keep closer to the 11:00 pace.
Result: Did not meet this goal for mile 1.

2. Enjoy the race. It's a gorgeous course, which is why I loved it last year. I plan on carrying my phone and may try to take some pictures along the course.
Result: Yes! I really enjoyed the course.While I did carry my phone, I didn't want to slow down at the beginning when I felt so good to take pictures, and at the end I just didn't have the energy. Oh well--I'm happy the volunteers took pictures!

3. Finish. Running 13.1 miles is still an accomplishment no matter how fast or slow I run!
Result: Yes! At the end, this was my only goal but I did it.

4. Run in this pace range (with A being most likely and D being least likely)

Result: If I go with my Garmin stats, I actually met all my pace goals except the most aggressive one. Even if I go with the official results, I still met two of my pace goals.

I finished in 2:37 last year, so my 2:28 finish is a 9-minute PR for me. That's a nice improvement to show over one year, and I'm very happy with it. This is the first race that I ran a moderate-hard effort for such a long, sustained distance and is definitely the most strenuous run I've ever done. I felt it afterward! I'm happy that my plantar fasciitis, which I recently got rid of, did not flare up, and I had no other pains other than that side stitch. I've had a history of tummy problems and am very happy I had no issues during this race. After the race, I was moving very slowly. But I had no time to relax since I then had to drive to the Mon Valley to help set up and attend a huge Halloween party my family had. Today I am very sore!

While I'm happy with my overall results, my splits definitely tell a story of where I can improve. It seems I can run a good 8 miles at my goal pace without problem before slowing down, so I need to work on being at goal pace for longer. I also definitely need to work on handling the distance better. This is only my third half marathon, so I think I need to get more experience at this distance and do longer long runs. I will definitely consider these things in my next training plan.

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