Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Letting the Secret Out - Secret City Half Marathon Recap: Part 1

Jayson, Haylee and I after the Secret
City Half Marathon
There is so much I want to share about my experience at the Secret City Half Marathon (held on Nov. 20) that I don't think I can contain it all in only one post.

Well, I could, but I don't want to overwhelm you with all my thoughts about this wonderful event.

So, because I know you enjoy reading my writing so much, I've decided to split this up into two posts. This first one is about the overall experience of the Secret City Half, while the next one will delve into my inner conflict I faced (and still battle with) as a runner.

Without any further ado, on to the recap!

The Secret City Half is a well-organized event. The course was simple, pretty much a double loop, and the terrain isn't much different than what I'm used to here in southeastern Kentucky. Plus, the price was right. Registration started at $40 and then only went up to $50 after Oct. 20, so it was an easy sell for me.

But what had me most excited about this race was the fact my kids were running the Kids Half Marathon. Of course, you already knew this from my last post.

I was really impressed with how well this half marathon was ran, and the organizers went all out. The race headquarters are at the National Fitness Center in Oak Ridge, Tenn., which is a fabulous facility in and of itself. Made me wish I lived in the area so I could be a member. They had a large tent set up up in the parking lot for the registration center.

When we arrived for our packet pickup Saturday evening, we made our way to the fitness center and were greeted by several helpful volunteers. Check in was easy and simple, taking less than two minutes.

Some of what was in my goody bag
As an added bonus, in the little shopping center next to the fitness center, there's an Italian restaurant - Gondolier's. SCORE! Nothing like going from packet pickup to carbo loading in one easy step!

The goody bag I received was pretty nice. In addition to a long-sleeve tech shirt, I got PowerBar Energy Bites, Chick-Fil-A coupons, a Secret City Half wristband, 13.1 sticker, an Oak Ridge Track Club sticker, some biofreeze, a water bottle, and some assorted other items. I don't think I got this kind of swag at the larger half marathons I ran in.

But what I got was nothing compared to what my kids received. They call all of that - except their shirt was a t-shirt and not a tech shirt, PLUS they goody bag was a reflective backpack!!!

Some of what the kids received in their goody bags
I felt better when I heard on race day other adults lamenting the fact they didn't get one of the cool backpacks either. Ever since we've returned from the race, Haylee's been using hers as her backpack. She loves it, to say the least.

Also, after the kids finished their race, they were given a bike helmet as well.

The only downside to the weekend's activities was that I was unable to see my kids run in their race. The half marathon started and was underway when the Kids Half took place. But for a small race like this, I don't know what other option they'd have.

Race day was perfect weather-wise. Overcast and in the low 50s. It was warmer than when I ran the Iron Horse Half Marathon just four weeks prior. Honestly never thought I'd run this race in shorts and a short-sleeved shirt, but here I was doing just that and I loved it. Could not ask for better weather.

The course was not totally scenic. The first few miles (as well as miles 7-9) were on the Oak Ridge Turnpike which is a heavy business district. Gas stations, a fire house, fast food restaurants and other businesses lined the road. Then, the course moved to the Melton Lake Greenway, and much of the next couple miles were along a river. Even passed by a marina and view was beautiful.

After we ran through a park, the course left the greenway and turned up Emory Valley Road, taking us back toward the start/finish line. This was a nice run through a residential area. Lots of trees and lovely homes to look at as we trekked our way through. HOWEVER, the only problem with this portion of the race is that it is a steady incline ... FOR 3.1 MILES.

It's not terribly steep in the least. But when you are constantly going uphill for that long, it wears a body down. I did fine the first time around, however, I was struggling on the second loop and it seemed like an eternity for me to finish the final 3.1 of the race.

Even when we turned off Emory Valley and eventually made our way to Briarcliff Road, there's an short yet steep incline that is brutal on the legs who've already done 12.9 miles. It's just this little hump you have to climb over but enough of an incline to make you long for the finish line even more.

After that, it was smooth sailing. Of course, there was only 0.2 miles left!

Per my usual, I saw the finish line and picked up my pace. My legs were howling, but I always want to finish a race strong.

The Secret City Half did something I just thought was awesome. As runners are coming down the home stretch to the finish line, someone was on the PA announcing who was about to cross the line. Not going to lie, my pace quickened even more when I heard, "And here's Jay Stancil coming in and looking good!" Just an awesome touch, and kudos to the person or persons doing the PA. I know that could not have been easy to look up everyone's name so quickly as they are sprinting toward the finish.

I finished the half in 2:11:14, and while I had hoped for a little better time, I pretty pleased with my performance all things considering (which I will get into in my next post).

The kids did well in their race with Haylee doing the 1.1 miles in about 10 minutes and Jayson in 11. Very proud of their performances! Heck, I'm proud they participated!

Another thing I appreciated about the Secret City Half is the fact they opened up the fitness center's locker rooms to the runners to allow them shower and/or store their gear. I know my family was sure appreciative of my being allowed to shower before we traveled home.

All in all, the Secret City Half is a great race, and one I highly recommend. They have already announced that registration will open up for next year's race (set for Nov. 18, 2012) will open up in January. And I plan to run it again. At $40 (hopefully they keep the same price), it's a bargain.