I have been looking at half marathons in Savannah forever, it seems. But I’m picky; just ask Mr. Judy. Many of the halfs there are in April — too hot and humid (and maybe rainy)! Of course sometimes you can catch a break, but no. Just no.
Then Best Damn Races announced they would be doing their first race in Savannah — in February. Two days after my birthday. Sold. Remember, I also ran the inaugural BDR NOLA race (read about that here).
Packet Pickup & Expo
Pickup at Forsyth Park was super easy. I did have to show my license, which I find oddly enough is rare. The goody bag actually had a few goodies in it:
- Pint Glass. They’d announced this recently so I knew that — love me a pint glass (good for smoothies).
- A candy from Savannah Candy Kitchen along with a discount for the store.
- A double package of biscoff cookies. Why? No idea — as far as I can tell there’s no connection to Savannah or GA. I’ve been playing around with shortbread as part of my fuel this training cycle — well, now I have plenty of Biscoff. Except no races. Maybe I should freeze them?
I didn’t even look at the expo, so I don’t know what they had. In NOLA there wasn’t a whole lot. The only downside is that Forsyth Park was a mile and a half from our hotel. Add to that the fact that I wanted to stop at City Market (outdoor shopping area) for some pizza, but had the wrong address, and also met up briefly with another Skirt Sports ambassador . . . let’s just say there was more walking the day before the race than I’d planned on.
The weather & dressing
Our first few days in Savannah were downright chilly. Cloudy, mornings in the 30s/40s. Dry. Yup, perfect racing weather. I did my last two training runs and I really wished I’d brought capris with me! I actually began to think I’d brought the wrong outfit for the race. Alas, the weather warmed up on race day. A lot.
Race morning actually seemed pretty good: cloudy, dry, but almost 60. It didn’t feel that humid . . . at the beginning. We were all saying the weather was perfect. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I wore my Skirt Sports Wonder Girl Tank (Skirt Sports Ambassador) and Cool It Skirt — yes, the exact same outfit I wore in almost all of my halfs last year. The Wonder Girl Tank has the cleavage alley pocket, and after dropping my little tube of Saltstick Chews once, I put it in there — which worked great. I have a tendency to forget to take them, but this made it much easier; since they’re in their own little tube, there was no problem with sweat getting at them.
I went back and forth a lot about whether or not to wear compression socks, but in the end decided against it and am very glad that I did. It heated up quickly (although thankfully stayed cloudy the whole race). It spit rain just a tiny bit here and there, but there was never any real rain (which would have felt nice).
Then there was the whole shoegate fiasco (read about that here). I don’t think that was what caused the blood blister — my guess is it was the brand spanking new pair of Balegas I wore? I have the exact same pair, but new ones were just so clean. They looked so pretty and matched my outfit beautifully. Could they have really caused a blister? I guess we’ll never know.
And what didn’t I wear? My cool it towel! I brought it (just as I brought it to my Ocean City half). I decided not to wear it in both races, and in both races, that was a mistake (especially in OCNJ). Hopefully this time I will learn from my mistakes!
My Race Plan
I didn’t bother to ask Rachel @ Runningonhappy for a race plan — still! Training had been rather odd. I was so slow in the beginning, still feeling niggles, I basically chalked this up for a fun run. Then the niggles got better and my paces got better, and my secret goal was to prove to myself I could do better than 2:30, maybe even PR — without a downhill.
So how’d that work for me?
- Mile 1: 10:45. It was a crowded start, but also a small race, so I’d moved up between the 2:30 and 2:20 pacers, which probably accounts for the speedy for me pace. Did I start out too fast? Maybe, but I don’t really think I did.
- Mile 2: 11:12. Narrow streets, very crowded.
- Mile 3: 11:05. Flat. It took a few miles to find my own space to run.
- Mile 4: 11:04. Flat.
- Mile 5: 10:50. Flat.
- Mile 6: 11:18. I remember we ran under an overpass here, so there was a dip in the road — don’t ask me why I slowed down. Futzing with fuel, no doubt.
- Mile 7: 11:09. This was a nice — but very narrow — paved running path around Hull Park. There was one girl who was just ahead of me for most of the race, also a run/walker, and she seemed to feel that she could just walk whenever she wanted to without caring what was going on behind her — she would walk on the narrow path instead of getting over onto the sidewalk next to it. Yes, she pissed me off.
- Mile 8: 11:48. We ran down pass Hull Park, then turned around and ran around the other side of it. Again, not sure why this was a slow mile.
- Mile 9: 11:34. Flat.
- Mile 10: 11:58. It was, thankfully, a cloudy day. But by now the temps were getting warm for someone who’d been dealing with polar vortexes a lot. Also a toe on my left foot had begun to hurt — I suspected a blister, even though I am not prone to them and I’d applied anti chafe stuff generously to my feet (and other chafe prone areas — it turned out to be a blood blister and there was no chafing elsewhere).
- Mile 11: 12:09. Flat.
- Mile 12: 12:07. Mostly flat, the beginnings of a slight incline that would carry over into the next mile.
- Mile 13: 12:13. This course is pancake flat, but there is just a very slight incline in this mile. Normally I am ready to be done here and pull out a fast mile. Nope. Now, a word about that 2:30 pacer. In the beginning of the race she was definitely running faster than a 2:30 half — in fact, one girl said she was on track for a 2:15 race and she was running around me. The pacer was actually using run/walk intervals. At some point, though, later in the race, she ended up behind me, which obviously made me think I was going to achieve my goal. She did pass me in this last mile and crossed the finish line pretty much right at 2:30.
- Last .12: 8:34. I did manage to sprint it to the finish line.
2:30:33 — Official Time
11:30 Average Pace
16 out of 30 in F55-59
216 our of 374 Female Runners
408 out of 599 Runners
So no, I didn’t meet my goal. I’d worked hard to get comfortable being uncomfortable with slightly overdressing my treadmill runs and some outside runs during this training cycle (although it’s hard when it’s super cold!); this worked well for me in NOLA and I guess it did help here, but I still don’t know if I can do better than a 2:30ish half without a downhill.
OTOH, I never had time to acclimate. It was raw and much colder for my other two runs in Savannah: 50 and 39! This half started at 61. While the blister hurt, it wasn’t that bad and I don’t think it effected my race (after the race is a different story!). My half in NOLA was much hotter, much more humid, and there was sun towards the end — yes, it was a little bit slower, but the runs I’d done to acclimate were also in line with what I actually got dealt with on race day.
Should I have started out slower? I think the short answer is yes, but OTOH, until the second half, my pace was very consistent. I do think that it was the warm day with no chance to acclimate that got to me. That plus the stress of losing Gizmo shortly before the race and probably walking around too much the day before the race — I have to say while I was excited at the start as I always am, my legs felt dead from the start.
Oddly enough I had a rather similar race in Cape Cod — but no blisters — under vastly different weather circumstances! I am only a little disappointed. No real injuries, a decent time for me especially considering the change in weather, and another state added.
Will I be stuck in this finish time area until another breakthrough — or have I peaked? Only time will tell. There are many more states to add!
Was the race well run?
Best Damn Race puts on great races. If you sign up early enough they are not expensive. Volunteers are enthusiastic. Courses are well marked — in fact the course is the only place they lost points for me — I think it was one of the most boring half courses I’ve ever run. Which is sad, because Savannah is a really lovely city. Luckily we were able to see it on our own.
I use a hydration vest, so I never stopped at an aid station, but as far as I could tell they seemed well stocked (I hope they were for those further back than me). There was still lots of food when I finished — again, hopefully there was for the runners finishing after me. But Dunkin Donuts had run out of chocolate donut holes. 😦
There was still a nice spread:
- Donut holes
- Pizza (there was a small wait, but I am not that hungry immediately following a half and didn’t want pizza at 10:30 in the morning anyway)
- Candy — there were still mini Snickers! Score!
- Bananas (they did look rather green, though)
- Mini brownie bites that were so fudgy and delicious!
There’s beer, too, of course, but I don’t drink and although I had my wrist band to give away, I just totally forgot about it. There are also free massages, and they take their time with you, which obviously meant a wait, but it was well worth it. It was more of a sports massage — in fact, my calves were actually killing me afterwards because she used deep pressure — yes, I had some black and blue marks, but I bruise easily. I did think about telling her to ease up on the pressure, but I figured I probably needed it and they did feel a lot better the next day (as did my blister, thankfully).
- Best Damn Races are so well organized
- A goody bag with actual goodies!
- A pint glass
- A cloudy day — I’m pretty sure my time would have suffered a lot more if it had been sunny
- Free photos (up quickly)
- Free massages
- Meeting up with some Skirt Sisters
- Meeting up with Karen @ Runningfifty
- Plenty of food at the finish line
Of course no race is perfect. The downsides:
- Much warmer than the rest of our stay in Savannah
- The course — it really did not showcase Savannah at all
- My first blister in a race
- This is not a huge negative, but BDR NOLA used a drawstring bag for the goody bag & I use it all the time; I was looking forward to a new one but this goody bag was a canvas shopping bag
What I learned
Nothing new on race day. Nothing new on race day. I’m usually pretty good about this, and the one other time I did it (BDR NOLA, oddly enough), it worked out just fine. I’ll never really know why I got the blister, and it may have nothing to do with the new socks, but were they worth it? Probably not.
Double check addresses. I had the wrong address for one of the places I wanted to stop at on the way to packet pickup — I spent far too much time on my feet looking in the wrong place. Totally my bad.
These aren’t things I learned, but rather things I knew and this trip just hammered it home for me:
- I totally prefer to put my vacation before the race. Almost every runner I know is the other way around. You never know how you’re going to feel after a race. If you end up injured (it can happen!), then the rest of your vacation is going to suck. Sure, you can also injure yourself before the race, and that would totally suck, too, but at least you’d still have a vacation.
- Leave yourself a little wiggle room to get there. We left in one heck of a snowstorm — we really weren’t sure we’d make it out of here (thank goodness we did). We left on a Tuesday and the race was Saturday. If we’d left on Wednesday, as we’d originally planned, I’m not sure we would have made it. We would still have had enough time to get there before the race even so (although our vacation would have suffered). This also gives you time to acclimate to different weather. It was just unfortunate for me that race day weather was quite different from the days leading up to it.
- The Cool It Towel helps. Worse comes to worse, you can stash it in a pocket. Wear the damn thing if it’s hot!