What: Tryon Half Marathon
When: November 18th 2017
Where: Tryon, NC
|New PR||Almost Guaranteed||Yes|
|Sub 1:40||Entirely Probable||Yes|
|Sub 1:38||Somewhat less realistic||Yes|
My friend Blaine first turned me on to the idea of running this race. He had run it a year or two before and noted that it was a nice course and generally a good time altogether. Somewhat later my friend Ryan noted that he had run it and confirmed that it was a nice course. He also mentioned that they have the best post-race food he had ever encountered. I wasn’t terribly concerned with finding a half to run, but if I could drag one or both of the two of them with me, then I could certainly find worse ways to spend a Saturday morning.
I’m really not sure exactly what it is, but a half marathon has consistently been an uninspiring distance for me. A break-neck 10k sounds more fun. A slow 30k feels more accomplished. When I hear a half mentioned my immediate thought is “mid-distance training run”. In fact I use halves all the time as training runs. I realize that this isn’t terribly accurate and that both my logic and thinking are flawed. It’s something I’m actively working on. I’m glad to report that Tryon helped in that regard.
Pretty much the entirety of my training for Tryon was incidental during my training for something else (race report coming soon!!!). I was trying to maintain 50+ mile weeks and was mostly successful. My running schedulle was to do higher intensity stuff on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thurday, then take Friday off, then do longer and slower stuff on Saturday and Sunday while taking Monday off.
Ryan and I met in the parking lot of a nearby grocery store and I hopped in his car. He’s the kind of guy who shows up early for everything so he had been there for a bit when I pulled in the parking lot. Personally I prefer to try and show up as “on time” as possible. Sometimes this has backfired epically as external forces are rather unforgiving. I greatly appreciate Ryan’s advanced punctuality and I hope he doesn’t change in the future.
Anyway, we rode the 30ish minutes down to the park where the event was taking place. We were clearly there a bit early. I hit the restroom while Ryan parked, we debated about whether to wear gloves or not, decided on gloves and other general attire given the temp, etc. By then we had noted where the packet pickup was and made our way there. It was pretty standard fare so we picked up our packets, dropped off the excess at the car and decided to try and warm up a bit.
The Tryon Half starts in a public park which happens to have a track. This is great except for the fact that absolutely everyone who runs this race decides that the only place to warm up is the track. To be fair, we were not exceptions. We put in about half a mile or so probably 20 minutes in advance of the race to get the blood pumping, then we elected to move toward the road where the event officially started.
Starting line to the turnaround
Tryon is a pretty standard out and back course with the start/end slightly different, but everything else being pretty standard. To start, they line everyone up on a public road (half of which is cordoned off by police) and they end with a slight reroute down a side road and into the same park, finishing on the aforementioned track.
Ryan had mentioned that when he had previously run the event, the start was rather abrupt. Well, that was precisely the case here. The lady called for everyone’s attention, gave requisite thanks, and sent us off in an almost absurdly abrupt fashion. Pretty much everyone I was standing around was caught off guard. Because of Ryan’s heads up, I had prepped my watch beforehand and was ready, but I didn’t see anyone else in my vicinity who had done the same.
The course was, in fact, very nice as had been reported. It was nicely maintained paved and gravel road for the entirety, aid stations were adequately and enthusiastically stocked, and the scenery was rather nice. The course was flatter than I had expected and the “out” section was an ever-so-slight downhill. This of course has the effect of making the “back” section an ever-so-slight uphill, but not to worry.
I took off in the heat of everything and tried to keep a reasonable pace given what I knew to be reasonably stiff competition. I clocked mile 1 in just over 7:00. I was initially worried but figured that since it felt great, I would try and keep pace for at least another mile or so.
Moving on through the course, I found it easy to keep the 7:00 ish pace so I figured I’d try and maintain through the turnaround, at which point things were bound to change on account of the change from downhill to uphill.
I was carrying a handheld water bottle with Tailwind and I was rather well trained at hydrating and fueling for the half distance so I decided to blow through the aid stations altogether. This turned out to be a great move. Much love for the aid station volunteers, but they weren’t terribly experienced. I would have lost at least a minute of time had I relied on aid stations for hydration, given what I saw with other runners.
As I was coming up on the turnaround I knew I was doing well when I saw Ryan and I hit the turnaround a couple of minutes later. Ryan is a much faster runner than I am at the half distance so the proximity meant that I was going way fast, he was going way slow, or some combination of both.
Turnaround to finish
Because of the very gradual uphill nature of the second half, I didn’t really feel it that much. On the way back there were a couple of sections where I had underestimated the drop on the way down, but it ended up being trivial and I powered through it without any repurcussions.
I was still blowing through the aid stations and maintaining a slightly below 7:00 pace. Probably a mile or two into the backtrack I finally settled in. I let out a big smile and decided to really enjoy it. At that point I knew I was going to absolutely crush my PR. I had set a mild goal of 1:40 and and stretch goal of 1:38. I was then confident about 1:36 and was stressing about trying to go faster.
Because I was so zoned into breaking the PR, I allmost missed a turn and a race official had to yell out and correct me. It was right at the end of what I later found out was the biggest hill of the race.
After that I just cruised. There was nothing else of substance beyond the slight course change between the beginning and end of the race. It was good and I finished without incident. In fact I finished fabulously without incident. I actually crossed the line a time that was beyond my wildest expectations: 1:32:14.
I was actually rather calm about my finish time. I was more concerned about jogging it out to make sure Strava recognized the PR than I was about the PR itself. This is assuredly a remnant left over from Greensboro where I set a marathon PR on a USATF certified course, but Strava didn’t recognize it as such (I’m not bitter as I understand why their algorithm works the way it does, rather its an annoyance). Ryan had evidently just finished about 3 minutes ahead of me got back up to jog out half a lap around the track after I finished.
His offical time was 1:29 and change. He was a bit disappointed in that while he hit a new PR, he experienced some GI issues and was at least a minute off his max potential. I’m guessing he probably could have run a high 1:26 or low 1:27 had the GI issue not presented itself. He really is one hell of a runner.
After wrapping up, walking it off for a few minutes to cool down, and hitting the car to change shirts, we went inside to see about the food. As promised, this was the best spread I’ve ever seen at a race. Approximately 50% of the wall in the building was lined with consumables. They had everything. I’ll spare you the list, but I, as a rather strict whole food plant based eater, had no problem scarfing down all I wanted and then some (note that my diet makes it a smidge difficult to find food in these sorts of circumstances).
After wrapping up the food and chatting with some people from Strava whom we had been following but hadn’t met in person before, we went outside to meander before the award ceremony. Ryan ended up getting an award for placing in his age group. I didn’t place in anything (16th overall), but it was still a great morning.
Regardless of what else happened, I still destroyed my PR by a solid 10 minutes and got to eat like a king afterward. Seriously a great morning. Barring any scheduling conflicts, I’ll be running this race again.