' Fall Classic Half Marathon 2017 Race Recap | Adventures with FitNyx

Monday, November 20, 2017

Fall Classic Half Marathon 2017 Race Recap

Okay, I'm going to skip a few of the recaps I'm way behind with and just try to get the most recent one up right away!  Yesterday I completed my 22nd half marathon less than 15 minutes from home at the Strongsville Fall Classic, hosted by the Cleveland West Road Runners Club.  I've heard good things about this race in the past and with my company timing it, there were no excuses to miss it this year.

It's a November half in Cleveland, so I'm sure it comes as no surprise when I start by saying it was COLD.  Saturday had seen incessant rainfall, so everything was damp and half of the local trail system through Bonnie Park was under considerable water.  Overnight, the temperatures plummeted and we arrived at the park in the middle of a snow flurry.  The freezing rain made the pavement slick right away, but we managed to get most of our timing gear set up during the lulls in precipitation.  We sent the half marathon walkers off about 45 minutes before race time, and I did my best to stay warm in the meanwhile.

Finally it was time for the half marathon to start, and I left the starting line to find an appropriate pace group before the gun went off.  Of course I ran into Cyndi, my favorite running buddy (who has logged over 2000 miles so far this year, wow!) and stuck with her for the first mile or so.  Obviously with her annual mileage, she's been training MUCH more than I have, so I knew I wouldn't be staying near her too long, but at least I got a solid start under my belt.  My first mile was a little rough in that the whole pack of about 800 runners was pretty stuck-together, and I had several people lurch or slip into my path causing me to make some dodging moves that twisted my knee a bit, but eventually we thinned out enough for me to run more safely.  The entire course is on a two-lane road, so there was ample space for the majority of the race.

I thought I was going to find a groove during the middle of the race, but it never quite happened.  Running on the road through this particular park meant a lot of winding - and the road was always pitched one way or another around each curve.  While the actual route was relatively flat, most of the road was diagonal to one side or the other, which put extra strain on whichever leg was lower and led to a LOT of muscle imbalance.  By the second loop of the course, I was hurting pretty badly.  The freezing weather didn't help, and the temperatures just kept dropping.  By mile 10, I was running into the wind with hail and hard snow pelting me in the face, while my hips screamed in diagonal-tilt-agony.

Despite the pain and the cold, though, I kept pushing for run-walk intervals, even if they were very short.  It would have been easy to convince myself to just walk for a while, but I tried not to let my brain take too long of a break.  A quick rotation of each leg in the socket helped alleviate some of the hip pain for short bursts, allowing me to pick up the pace for another couple tenths of a mile at a time.  Soon I was rounding the final curve back towards the starting area and could see the finish banners waving in the wind!  I pushed whatever energy I had left into my feet and crossed the finish line in about 2 hours and 45 minutes.  Honestly, with no training and the adverse conditions, I'm VERY happy with that time.  I've done worse in better conditions with better training, so I can't really complain!

I hobbled over to the pavilion to grab some of the Applebee's chili (they had more than enough to save plenty for us back-of-packers) and a few bagels before pitching in a bit to clean up the finish line apparatus.  Fortunately we had enough on our timing team that I really didn't have to work too hard after I ran!  We waited for the tail end of the race, picked up our stuff, and headed home.  I can't tell you how nice it was to have such a short drive home and to have my feet UP within 20 minutes of leaving the race!  I've had so many long-drive races lately, but it was so good to stay close to home.  I spent the rest of the day in my calf sleeves trying to heal up some of the damage from the skewed roadway.  Today I'm a little stiff but have most of my range of motion; by tomorrow I should be back at 100% already.  Guess that means I don't have any excuse to delay getting back into a real training habit!

Fall Classic Half Marathon Breakdown

Organization: Cleveland West has been putting on this race for 40 years, and the event shows their experience.  Early packet pickup at Second Sole was sponsored by a local brewery, so you got a free beer when you stopped in to grab your bib; race day pickup was equally easy though less libatious.  Plenty of volunteers were available for the course and aid stations, the route was well marked, and pre-race communication was very clear.  Timing was done by my company (in fact, done partially by me) so I'm going to say we did a great job, but I promise I wouldn't be the only one saying so!

The Course: I've never run a double-loop course before, and I can't decide if I liked it.  The flatness was kind of sabotaged by the pitch of the road, as I mentioned before, but it was a very straightforward route that was easy to follow.  Starting into the second loop at first seemed great ("oh I totally know this, should be easy now that I'm familiar with it") but later got into my head a little bit ("I could have sworn I was a lot closer to the finish when I passed this bridge...").  Ample room on the wide roadway for the out-and-back crowd made for a better course than the all-purpose trail running alongside the actual road, but the APT doesn't have the same banking built into the turns.  I guess to have the breathing room, you have to take the pitch of the road, and I guess at the end of the day I'd rather have the running space.

The Swag: Runners paid between $45 and $65 for the Fall Classic, which is probably on the higher end of the "local running club half marathon" pricing scale from my experience.  However, runners get a lightweight windbreaker jacket instead of another race shirt, and though I don't find it to be super high quality, it's a lot nicer than some of the junky cheapo shirts I've gotten at other local-sized races!  If you signed up for this race on the $45 end, you got a decent deal, that's for sure.  The medals are cool, featuring the fox logo, and the post-race food included fresh, hot CHILI which was a godsend by the end of this race.  They also offered free beer at packet pickup, and the goody bags had actual goodies in them (like Chik-fil-a gift cards)!  There's definitely a lot of "local flair" in this race, and it's affordable enough to enjoy the quaintness of the club and the focus on running for running's sake.

Bottom Line: It's a good, local half marathon.  There's no post-race party or flashy finish line stuff, but you get a well-supported course and good swag for a very reasonable entry fee.  I definitely can't complain about the experience (beyond the weather, which just can't be helped) and would definitely recommend this race to someone looking for a good half in November.  Nothing fancy, but a safe and solid course with lots of great competitors, which at the end of the day is what this is all about, right?

What are the goings-on in YOUR running world?  Anyone tried any new races lately?

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