October 26, 2014 – Wake Forest, NC. The third running of the Hallowed Half and 10k, put on by Signature Races. Another beautiful morning for a race. So many of my races lately have just been the best weather wise, and this one was no exception. Race morning temps in the low 50’s.
My drive to Wake Forest is about 50-55 minutes, so I left the house about 5:30. Race day packet pick up started at 6:30, and there was a bit of a line when I arrived, but only a few minute wait. Pretty much the only time I ever see the sunrise is when I am racing, and as daylight approached the sky was cloudless. After getting my bib pinned onto my shirt, I made my way over to find my fellow pacers for the race.
Women wore witch costumes, and tutus, men were wearing a Grim Reaper costume, with a scythe showing the pace on the faux blade. Here is a shot of a few folks getting costumed up.
There were about ten of us total. Unfortunately I was the only pacer for the 1:45:00 (8 minute mile) group, so would have to go it alone. I have never had to pace by myself, so I hoped it would work out ok. It’s great when you have a partner or two, trading off holding the pacing sign and just having someone else to keep you on track.
As 7:30 approached, we got in line at the starting chute. I was surprised how few folks really aligned up with me for a 1:45:00 finish. As you can see by this photo, no one was willing to get in front of me until the last minute before the race began. I stood quite a ways back from the starting line, where I snapped this picture. I guess the ultra fast runners were still stretching. Lol. Here is a photo looking behind me, and believe me, there were plenty of runners lined up.
Lots of folks in costume, the race began moments later.
When I say that this race is hilly, I really mean it. Being the third time I have run it, I knew what to expect. I knew what to expect, but really wasn’t prepared. On tired legs from six weeks worth of mega racing, I was just hoping for a nice even paced race. My right ankle had been giving me pain for a few days prior to the race, and right off the bat I was giving me fits. As I adjusted to running in a costume, and carrying an extremely long pace sign/scythe I tried to find my pace. Half a mile in I was at 8:30 pace, working my way to that magical 8:00. By the end of the first mile, I was there. On pretty much the only flat portion of the race course it was obvious that if I had a pace group, they were too spread out at this point to really tell. The only person matching my steps was a woman dressed as Cat Woman.
A few miles in, we turned east and were running directly in the sun. Although a cool morning, the sun warmed me up quite a bit. Running in the sun coupled with having a black hooded costume on, I quickly starting sweating. I knew that wearing that costume would not last long. My only running companion was matching me step for step. Pace was even, and right on the money. We chatted a bit. I have her tips on what was coming up on the course. She told me that if she hung with me, she would get a huge PR. Her current PR at the Half distance was 1:53:00. Without saying anything, I knew this would be the race of her life if she could maintain the pace over the course of the hills knowing she had never run that fast before. This is not really a PR friendly course because of the difficulty. I had my fingers crossed for her though.
Big hills, big! Traversing these babies at an even pace was massively difficult. As the miles progressed I was becoming too hot in that costume. As we approached the second water station about five to six miles in, I decided it was time to ditch it. I still had my pace sign, which would have to suffice. I threw that costume to the curb, and quickly cooled down quite a bit. Mile 7, 8 then 9. More huge hills, I lost a few ticks on the pace. Knowing I would have to make up the time on a downhill, I pushed onward. It was at about mile 9, on a long uphill stretch that my only companion, Cat Woman, would finally fall back. She had to walk. I knew it would happen eventually, but I gave her huge props for sticking with me that long. I was now alone. If I hadn’t been pacing this race, I would have run it very differently. With two previous races on this course, both under 8:00 mile pace, I was struggling more this time around. I know it was due to the fact that I ran those uphill portions at an even pace, just the same as the downhill portions. If I wasn’t pacing, I would have taken it more easy on the uphills, and taken more advantage of the easier downhills. Oh well, nothing I could do but press on. Alone.
Nearing the haunted trail portion of the race, my pace had slipped to 8:04 overall. Then, the dreaded Garmin event happened. Yep! I had been switching the pace sign between hands every so often because of the weight of it. The breeze also kept blowing the blade, which made it even more difficult to carry. I was so tired of holding it, and didn’t have another pacer to hand it off to for some relief. This time, in switching hands the pole bumped my Garmin and there went a beep. Omg! My Garmin reset. Now there I was, knowing that I was already behind pace, and losing my one way to keep track of getting that pace back. I was doomed, I thought. By this point though, I didn’t have a sole running with me, and as we merged in with a bunch of the 10k runners, I couldn’t really tell who was running what race. many folks I passed were walking, having been totally beaten up by the relentless hills. I figured I would just have to finish the best I could. I had no idea now what my overall pace was, and with a long uphill finish, there was no way I was going to hit my mark.
If I had another pacer with me, it would have been the failsafe I needed. I didn’t though. Miles 10, 11 and 12, I just tried to keep as even paced as I could. I knew I was losing more time on the uphills. Eventually with a half mile to go, I just told myself to go as fast as possible. That uphill finish is daunting, and will test your will. With the finish line in sight, and still no one running with me, I crossed the line in 1:47:01. Yeah, my fastest Half this year. Not my goal pace, but only 10 seconds per mile off. I can blame it on several things like my Garmin fail, the lack of running with another pacer or two, the costume or whatever. But I won’t. The fact of the matter is that I just didn’t hit my mark. Last year I ran this race in 1:39:00, and after crossing the finish line completely drained of energy, wondered how in the world I ever had a time like that on this course. It was tough!
After collecting my cool medal and some water, I wandered back to the finish line to hopefully see Cat Woman finish. I was dying to find out if she would get her PR. Low and behold, she soon crested the final hill to the finish line. I cheered her on, as she crossed the line just under 1:50:00. She did it! A PR by over three minutes on this difficult course. She was the only person I was basically pacing, so I felt that my work, for at least the first 8-9 miles that she hung with me, was well worth it. I found her to congratulate her. She was thrilled.
I hung around the finisher village for about an hour after the race, just soaking up the morning Sun, and talking with fellow runners. I may not have hit my mark right on point, but I was pretty damn close. Pacing is a lot of fun, but this race was the most challenging pacing job I have ever had. I had some obstacles on race day, but managed the best I could.
The Hallowed Half is such a fun event, and will look to return with a vengeance next year to give those haunting hills another go.