Friday, November 28, 2014

Race Report: Annapolis Running Classic

My first double-half/back to back
weekend!  And I lived to tell
about it!
I knew going into it that this weekend was not going to be easy.  Scheduling two half marathons back-to-back is bordering on insanity.  And the fact that the two races would be my third and fourth half in the month of November – it definitely would be a real test.  I would reach my milestone tenth lifetime half marathon (and tenth of the year) at the Annapolis Running Classic in Annapolis, Maryland on Saturday.  It would also be my eighth state to cross off my list of fifty states to run a half marathon in.

On Friday night, November 21, I left work to head to Newark Airport and pick up a rental car for the weekend.  Originally, I was going to pick up a car from Hoboken but in the week before my trip, I lucked upon a $17 a day rental instead of $45 per day.  By 7pm, I was en route to Annapolis, Maryland in a pretty blue Nissan Sentra. 

Ready to get going for the 7am start
of the Annapolis Running Classic!
After a three and a half hour drive, I arrived at my homestay for the evening in South Annapolis.  Thank you Heather and Will Montague for the quick six hour stay!  I laid my kit out for the morning and went promptly to bed, as the drive had definitely tired me out.

I woke up at 5:00am and got myself ready and out the door by 5:45.  The car had a thin film of frost on the windshield, so I had to turn the front and rear defrosters on.  It was definitely cold.  I got to the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium at 6am, with more than enough time to warm up and pick up my bib prior to the start of the race at 7.  The temperature at the start was 25 degrees.

The view down Main Street in
Annapolis toward the harbor
The field wasn’t too crowded, so we went off without a hitch from the parking lot of Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium and circled around the route passing single-family homes on both sides.  We would also be crossing a series of bridges that crossed tributaries of Chesapeake Bay. The course had several turn around spots where we would be seeing other runners.  One of my favorite spots was about 2.5 miles in, when we turned onto Main Street – a nice downhill with quaint little mom and pop storefronts on both sides of the street and a gorgeous view of Chesapeake Bay and the Annapolis Harbor in front of you.  At the end of the harbor was a turnaround spot with a water stop… which was a bit perilous – below freezing weather and spilled water made for a very slippery running surface.  And when the ground was made up of bricks… even worse.  Needless to say, I walked at this point.  It happened to be the 5k point, and I had decided before the race that I would be enforcing three minutes of walking upon reaching each 5k point, just to pace myself and not overdo it since I had another half the following day.

The Naval Academy Bridge, which
I had to run over... twice.
Around the 3.5-4.5 mile mark was where we encountered a little bit of a problem.  It seems that some of the runners out front made a left turn onto a street that would be used as an “out and back point” into the right lane of the street rather than the left lane.  This caused a bit of a traffic jam for runners returning in the other lane where there was a bit of a criss-cross.  By the time we had returned to that point, the race coordinators had resolved the issue and had the remaining runners hug the curb to run on the left side of the street.

We proceeded toward the Naval Academy Bridge along King George Street, which was just after the 5-mile mark of the race.  Seeing it was jarring… you could easily see the crest of the bridge, and you knew you’d be in for a tough climb to get over that elevation.  Nevertheless, I trudged along.  At about the midpoint of the bridge, we could see the leaders of the race approaching, heading back toward the stadium for their finish.  We continued on, partly along the highway and onto more hilly areas of the race on the other side of the Severn River where there was another out-and-back.  Luckily around the turnaround point was the 8 mile of the race, and I took another three minute walk break.  Slippery here as well!  I continued along and cheered on the other runners who were making their way through the hills.

Half number 10 and state number 8
completed!  And it was a cold one!
We returned across the Naval Academy Bridge for the second time, and then made a turn back toward downtown Annapolis on King George Street, which had another turn around at College Avenue to return back down King George Street for one last time.  We were in the final stretch and finally made it to mile 12, and then turned left to run the last mile back into the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium parking lot and to the finish line, where a heat sheet and our finisher's medal awaited us.  I finished in 2:14:02, and the weather had warmed up... to 34 degrees.

This after party is going to be hard
to beat.  Free oysters? Yes, please!
We were directed to head to the smaller "Runner's Village" that was set up for us to pick up our finishers' premium - a quarter-zip Dri-Fit jersey - and post-race bananas, bagels, and homemade country tomato soup!  But that wasn't all... we were given an after party that had a live cover band, several beers (and root beer and hard cider) on tap, and... OYSTERS, both grilled and on the half shell, free for all finishers.  I stuck around as long as I could to partake in this after-party, of course got my headstand photo taken in front of the Blue Angels plane on display outside of the stadium, before getting back on the road again for the two hour drive up to Philadelphia to pick up my bib for my second half of the weekend.

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