Celebrate Life Half Marathon


Posing before the race started

Race Relay Recap 3/13/16
Darlene signed up for the Celebrate Life Half Marathon. I told her it was too bad, I would have been interested in doing the relay with her. So she found me a relay partner. And then the partner got injured the week of the race! Barbara, Darlene’s friend, whom she’s been running with the past few weeks (I just meet them at the beginning and the end of our runs since I can’t keep up with them) agreed to partner me.

This is a long recap, so the short story is: very hilly half run for a great cause (cancer survivors and those battling cancer), I did well and am very pleased with my run, a well run race which still has room for improvement.

So what is the Celebrate Life Half Marathon? From the website:

Celebrate Life honors, remembers and celebrates those who have fought against cancer.

The race annually raises funds to assist cancer patients in their financial needs donating 100% of the proceeds to patients in treatment. No overhead nor administrative expenses, what we raise we donate. Any donation is appreciated and welcome.

My family is riddled with cancer — some survivors, but the disease has claimed far more family members than it has spared. So it’s a cause near and dear to my heart, and only that would get me up far too early to drive in the dark to catch a bus for a 2 hour ride to a race!

I’m second from the left in the 2nd row sporting the race jacket – after the race! That’s my crzay friend Lisa D first on the left in the first row, btw!

Getting There
There is a local survivor who organizes a bus that goes to this race each year, which, as I said, is about a 2 hour drive from home. And it’s a 20 minute drive to the bus from home, too — lots of fun considering I’d never been there and with the time change it was pitch dark, which almost had my GPS guiding me over a hill, but I made it.

In addition to Darlene and Barbara, I knew several other people from my USAFit Group on the bus.

She PR’d despite the worry about the early start

The bus was supposed to leave at 6:45 am sharp, but not so much. One person was lost, and we ended up heading out to pick him up, only to return to the start to pick him up there. Which made the woman behind me, who was signed up for the early start, a tad nervous as we didn’t leave until 7 am — I chatted with her a lot, but never got her name; she did PR her race though, so she was a happy camper..


His speed didn’t rub off on me

The late runner also happened to sit in front of me, and he also happened to be wearing Brooks, which amused me and caused me to take the photo above. Darlene said I should run fast because we wore the same shoes. I wish! He won the masters division and came in 6th overall.

The drive there was pretty nostalgic, too, as it’s close to the town my grandparents lived in when I was a little girl (later there’s another connection to that town), and we drove through Ellenville, a town I’ve been to many times to visit the ice caves. I hadn’t been in decades; we lost my grandmother shortly before I got married, 3 decades ago.

Packet Pickup
Packet Pickup was day of the race and pretty darn easy if you were running the half. However, I was running the relay and the bib number lines stopped at about 1050 — but our bib number was 2042???

Turned out the first line was for the relays, too, but it was not marked as such, so that was confusing.

You were supposed to find your own way to the relay exchange, but obviously we needed rides. The woman who organizes the bus and the race director assured us that we’d be able to find a ride and that people had done so in the past.

Basically, we were told to ask in the lobby. Ask WHO?

So we asked when we got the bib. The volunteer said she was too busy handing out bibs and that she’d keep an eye out for the race director. Thanks. NOT. I do understand that they’re busy, that they don’t have a ride service, but they also knew we were looking for a ride, and maybe could have been just a wee bit more helpful.

Barbara’s colorful capris helped me sprint to my finish

Somehow my partner found some people and we secured our rides. Sigh of relief!

Suggestion for the future: why not have a line/table with a sign for the relay teams? Even though most are local, the race is run on small country roads, so some ride sharing would really be helpful to all.

My ride, by the way, was Michael Decker (thank you so much Michael!); he happens to live in the town my grandmother lived in, and went to school at the college I run to on a regular basis. Small world! He came in just 8 minutes before me; it was the longest run he had ever done.

The line for the bathroom was long, so we used the bathroom on the bus — despite the fact that there was no light in there, having it available was a real plus.

Smiling because it’s downhill & early in the race

My Race Plan
I have a space in my journal for race plans, but with it just being a relay and a shorter race, I didn’t even think to write down a plan. Like it just never even crossed my mind. The week leading up to the race had all sorts of crazyness going on and a lot of nights with too little sleep.

I knew the course was hilly. That is, I knew it in the abstract.

I also knew that support was only available for the 2 1/2 hour race limit, and that our bus was supposed to leave a 1 pm, so I knew I had to at least try to push my pace.

My plan was simple: try to keep my pace under 12 mm and take the first mile easy.

Smiling — heading downhill — again

So how’d that work for me?

  1. Mile 1: 12:05. I definitely felt I could have gone faster, despite the loooong hill, but in the end, probably good to start out slow.
  2. Mile 2: 11:41. Still climbing for most of this mile.
  3. Mile 3: 11:15. Rolling hills.
  4. Mile 4: 11:44. About halfway through this mile we started another steep hill. I also took my only gel this mile, and I think it might have been the mile I had to jump almost into a ditch to avoid the ambulance (yes, there was an accident but apparently the person is okay; no, I didn’t see it, thankfully). I was actually very pleased and surprised that I managed to stay below a 12 mm for this one.
  5. Mile 5: 11:13. Rolling hills.
  6. Mile 6: 11:24. Rolling hills.
  7. Mile 7: 12:03. Rolling hills. No real explanation for the slowdown here; just giving in to fatigue, I guess.
  8. Last bit: 11:14. Seeing that 12 on my watch made me angry. Seeing Barbara’s green capris (thank you for not wearing black!) helped me to give it my all!


Almost got the outfit right

The weather & dressing
It was pretty much perfect racing weather: about 50 at the start, partly cloudy, no wind.I chose a tee, capris + compression sleeves, a windbreaker, and the new Brooks Ghost 8.

I still overdressed. I like to have a jacket in case the wind picks up later on, but I didn’t need my windbreaker and it spent the entire race tied around my waist, but it didn’t bother me.

What I Saw/Felt
I lined up with my friend Lisa D (she had an awesome PR on a tough course!) at the start, towards the back, not realizing that it was gun time, not chip time, although my bib didn’t have a chip; Barbara’s did, since she ran the final leg of the relay.


View of one of the lakes

Seriously, as usual, it’s all kind of a blur. It’s a pretty race, going around two lakes, but the scenery isn’t enough to distract you from the relentless hills. Apparently last year it was snowing, and the runners couldn’t even see the lakes, so we were lucky.

The first mile isn’t really all that steep, but it just goes on . . . and on . . . and on . . .

The aid stations were every 2 miles, and despite the fact that it was near perfect racing weather, I found myself to be very thirsty. In fact, I forget to bring a salty snack for after the race and I did have some leg cramps afterwards. Why do I keep forgetting I need salt after long races?

There are free GUs at mile 6 1/2, and I grabbed a few even though I rarely use GUs anymore — I use Huma Gels when I do use Gels; I gave them to Darlene.

I think I say this about every hard run, but man, I was so happy to stop! It didn’t bother me at all that I didn’t go through the finish line. I didn’t take a medal, either. Darlene and Barbara urged me to, but I really only want them from my halfs. I heard later that they ran out, so I was glad I didn’t take one (although I also read that they didn’t).

I kept in mind family members who had battled cancer, my cat Simba, who died from lymphoma, a friend’s sister who is battling cancer. Mostly, though, I wasn’t thinking much at all.


On the bus, almost home

Was the race well run?
Overall the answer is yes, with a few little glitches (like trying to find a drive to/from the relay exchange & no sign for where to pick up the relay bibs). Although there weren’t many turns on the course, they were all well marked. There were volunteers at each mile marker calling out your time.

I would have liked a bit more information for us relay runners. I also missed out on the wine/beer/donut mile, as that was in the second half of the race. I suppose I made up for it by getting some of the pizza at the finish line, which was gone by the time Darlene came in.

In addition, something at the relay exchange — at the very least some water — would have been really nice. I had some snacks in the bag I’d given to Barbara, but I didn’t think to put in water, assuming they would have some.

The race is not closed to traffic (in fact we had cars coming through the start!), they are narrow roads, as I said, and one runner was hit by a truck and airlifted to a hospital (just as a precaution, thankfully she wasn’t seriously injured). All those ambulances and police cars were pretty scary.

The volunteers were enthusiastic, and the water stops were all well stocked, and there was even some of the free GUs left when I came to that water stop. My one complaint — and this seems a theme with races lately — put more water in the damn cups! I was really getting thirsty towards the end of the relay, and it wasn’t a hot day. At one water stop I had to grab 2 cups of water because together it still wasn’t a full cup.

Ate this bar from the swag bag after last week’s grocery run

It’s nice swag, too — even some useful stuff! A sweatshirt/jacket which I’ve already worn, despite it being too large. We were warned at the sign up that they were unisex and ran large, so I asked for a small. I like jackets to be a bit large so I can get a sweater on underneath. It’s huge! I should have asked for an xsmall. I’ll still wear it — in fact, I have already walked Lola wearing it, and the RD suggested I wash it in hot water. I’m a little scared to, I’d hate to ruin it; but it really is quite large.

There were also GU chews, a mini clif bar (already consumed!), some purell, a water bottle (I could live without that), and the obligatory Dick’s coupons.

There are free massages before/after the race, but unfortunately I was waiting for Barbara and Darlene to finish, so I wasn’t able to get one. We thought we had a tight window to catch the bus, but it left an hour late (and runners were still coming in).

And did I mention the free photos? Quite a few them too!

Lunch was also included, although this was another area where more information would have been great. You get wristbands for your lunch. There was baked ziti outside, or you could go inside and eat at Outback in the hotel, which had more options. We just got in line for the ziti, and once your wristband is cut off, that’s it — although personally I was fine with the ziti. I also had some of the protein balls I’d brought, a hammer nutrition bar, a small piece of the brownies that were passed around the bus (there were cupcakes on the bus, too, but I’d already eaten as if I’d actually run a half, which I didn’t, so I didn’t partake — they looked really, really good).

Will I run it again next year? Maybe. I definitely would only do it as part of a relay. If I did run it next year, hopefully I’d sign up earlier and be able to raise a little money.


(which is gun time, and actually the time Barbara crossed the timing mat after she gave me my bag at the relay exchange, so I was a little faster)

I’m linking up this race recap with the  Weekly Wrap (Weekly Wrap goes live on Sundays at 5 pm) from Holly @ Hohoruns and Tricia @ Misssipppiddlin. I’ll be back tomorrow with my regular weekly wrap so you can see how this week went down.



45 thoughts on “Celebrate Life Half Marathon

  1. You did great! You should have taken a medal! It looks like a nice course but open to traffic would freak me out a bit. Mostly because I am so use to a race being closed or having a dedicated lane,I would forget not to swerve without looking, etc…
    Hills are a different kind of challenge, i always expect to be a bit slower.
    I like your Ghosts, I have run in several pairs of the 7’s and now the Doc wants me to stop Brooks, it is going to be strange.
    I do think the relay was a bit confusing, at least you found a ride.
    It is nice they had a bus to take you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m really happy with the race. Nothing like a little adrenaline to get you moving. 🙂

      I have run in Ghosts before, the 6 — I keep trying to remember which half but I can’t! I stopped because the dang shoes are never on sale. But right now they’re working for me.

      I had done enough hill work to have a good idea of what to expect, and I was spot on — actually just a few minutes faster than I expected to be. So I was pleased!

      I have enough medals, seriously. I like my half medals — but I also have some from shorter races — I dunno, they just don’t have much meaning to me for some reason. Didn’t work as hard for them, I guess. Barbara offered me hers, but I declined.


  2. What a great recap! I don’t like those races where the traffic is all right next to you. I think Maui was my first real experience with that and it’s unnerving. I find so hard not to get frustrated with the volunteers sometimes when they’re being less than helpful. Sometimes I have to check myself and bite my tongue and force myself to remember that they’re just volunteers and I need to be thankful for them being there in the first place. I think your splits were great! You stuck to your make-shift race plan, so really good job, and on a very hilly course! Seems like an overall nice race, other than those hills, hehe!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It isn’t the first race I’ve done where the roads weren’t closed to traffic. And there wasn’t a lot, but there definitely were some.

      You probably wouldn’t consider it that hilly. 🙂

      I was very pleased with it — I think having a partner and not wanting to be late helped!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sounds like there were some positives and things they could do better. At my half in January, I felt they were missing information… I think race organizers do not always realize that people will be coming from out of town and are not necessarily familiar with the area, or know what is going on. Definitely sounds like you could have benefitted from some additional information.

    Congrats though on all those hills….

    How was your ankle ?


    1. My ankle is a LOT better; thanks for asking. Still not normal, but I’ll get there (kind of like spring, which we’re still waiting on).

      There were people at this race from Singapore & Copenhagen! I have to assume there was some local connection for them.


  4. I was there and I think you captured it accurately. I agree with all your criticism. It’s for a good cause and I hope to run the relay next year.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I really enjoyed your recap, sounds like a nice race with a great cause-though I can’t believe there wasn’t water at the relay exchange!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great job Judy on your race! I think you did super considering how hilly it was! I was so impressed on the group that organized the bus for this race. I so wish we could do that around here, it would be very cool to ride with locals and friends to a race! Do you like the Humas better than the GU’s why? Relays are so much fun, It is like your running for your partners instead of just yourself. Great job on keeping your pace! We appreciate you Judy supporting the Weekly Wrap and look forward to wrap up of your week!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like Humas because they’re real ingredients. For halfs I usually use bites of a date almond oatmeal bar I make myself, but since it was a shorter race I didn’t need much.

      I also prefer Huma because they aren’t as sweet as GU. Oddly enough I don’t want something sweet during a half. Clif gels are my second choice or the Clif pouches.


      Liked by 1 person

  7. Sounds like a really great race! I’ve never done a relay, but when I was in Florida, it was an option and I kind of wished I’d done that. I always feel like I’m glad to be done at the finish. Always!

    So scary about the runner being hit by a car. People in cars are such jerks! Glad she’s ok.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I heard some of the drivers just ignored the volunteers directing them & that IS scary!

      I didn’t feel I was ready for a full half yet. I’m not like you marathoners, I’ve got to be trained up.

      I did briefly consider doing it when I lost my partner, but I knew I couldn’t do it in that time limit. I would have definitely slowed down the second half.

      So I was glad to find a replacement!


  8. Great job on your half marathon! What a great cause. I know way too many people who lost the battle with cancer and a few survivors too. I think everyone knows someone who was impacted by that disease in some way. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I think the logistics of a relay is what has kept me from doing one. It’s easier and less stressful just to start at the start and finish at the finish. LOL. I may be wrong, but I think they don’t fill the cups so you won’t slosh it all over you as you run and drink. I most always grab two. You did a great job with those hills. I’m surprised they had no water at the relay exchange since it was, in essence, your finish line. I’ve run a few races open to traffic. They can get very hairy. Some drivers and not amused. Thanks for linking with us Judy.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Nice run and for a great cause! My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago and my parents had no health insurance! It was tough, but after a double mastectomy, she’s doing great. I love runs that make a difference. Awesome job!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I’ve only done a couple relays one was for a triathlon (not a big deal because we all started in the same transition place), and I was on a 4-person team for a marathon (I was the first runner, so I just had find the shuttle for my ride back). Yes, the shuttling made me nervous, though! My Brooks (Adrenalines GTS-15’s) have a very similar color/pattern as yours….pretty!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That was the only color they had!

      This race didn’t have a shuttle for the exchange, which I knew & understood. I think it wouldn’t really be that hard to just have a place for people to ask for rides — I definitely didn’t want to walk 6 miles!


    1. Now if only I’d actually had one of the massages. Ah well, my next race has free massages too, and I plan to get one this time! Especially since I’ll be doing more miles after the race.


  12. I’m sorry you did not take a medal because it would have reminded you about the race being about cancer and finding a cure. Races that have rolling hills are always tough and I am impressed at how well you did. Congrats and how fun that there were free photos too. I actually like the bus rides to races. Yesterday, I met a nice girl on the short ride and then saw her finish and meet her goal of qualifying for Boston!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. The open to traffic would concern me. When I run, I use the sidewalks because it only takes one driver not paying attention, and more and more drivers don’t pay attention. Way to go on your race.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve done other races that are open to traffic. You’ve got to keep in mind when those races have all been on small country roads — which I suppose is good (less traffic) and bad (less shoulder or space on road).


  14. Sounds like a fun day overall and you did a great job with the race. I would like to try a relay. Nice how the bus was organized for everyone to ride together- I think that would add to the fun! I love races with free photos too- that is a nice touch! I hope it raised a lot of money for cancer- that is something that seems to effect every family. Have a great week!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Great recap! You did a great job with your times across those hills. I’ve never done a relay – seems like it would be a lot of fun.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I live in a REALLY flat area and ran a hilly half this past weekend. It was …not good haha. I don’t know how runners do this all the time! I definitely know what you mean by it just kept going on and on!

    Great job on your half! I love when they’re for a really good cause.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s