Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Whole Lotta Ho Ho Hos - Santa Hustle Smokies Half Recap

Knew it would be a good race when my
race bib number was 816 - same as my
anniversary (August 16).
So, I ran yet another half marathon this past Sunday. My third one in seven weeks, qualifying me to become a Half Fanatic!

While I'm super stoked to join the Half Fanatics (member No. 1684!), a blog post on that will have to wait for another day.

Sunday's race was the Santa Hustle Smokies Half Marathon, and I was excited about it the moment I found out about it in a Groupon. Yes, I said Groupon.

Nothing like opening an email and finding out you can register for a race for HALF PRICE!!!

When I got the email, I was already signed up to run the Iron Horse Half and the Secret City Half. Those two races wouldn't alone wouldn't qualify me for the Half Fanatics since they were four weeks apart. But add in the Santa Hustle Smokies Half, and the three in 50 days did!

The fact I could become a Half Fanatic had me excited about this race, but add in the fact all runners would receive a special Santa tech shirt, a Santa hat and beard to run it, and I couldn't sign up fast enough. Hundreds of Santas on parade in East Tennessee!

It just looked like lots of fun. And it was!

(NOTE: I did not wear the hat or beard in the race. I wanted to keep my ears warm so I wore my running toboggan. Also, there was NO WAY I was going to be able to breath with the beard on.)

Pre-race in the resort lobby with hundreds of other Santas.
My goal and mission for this race was different than the previous two. The Iron Horse Half was for a PR, and I got it. The Secret City Half was to enjoy running with my kids, and this half was just to enjoy the run. I wanted to stay under 2:15, but I was not going to push for the PR.

I simply wanted to enjoy the run.

The course was a simple out and back from the Wilderness at the Smokies Resort down the parkway through Sevierville, Tenn., to the north end of Pigeon Forge and back. The first three miles (and the last three miles of course) were flat, which was nice. However, the middle stretch consisted of two long hills to climb ... TWICE.

When driving the course, the hills did not seem too bad. However, when running, you soon find out the hills are a long, slow incline. Nothing like a mile-plus long incline.

Finishing strong - posting a time of 2:13:05!
Through the first half of the race, I posted a time of 1:04: 25 for a pace of 9:50 per mile. I was slightly ahead of my PR pace of 2:09:42 (a pace of 9:54 per mile). I would've loved to post a PR, but pushing for it was not in my best interest. Ever since the Secret City Half on Nov. 20, my left hamstring had been giving me fits off and on. And through the first 10 miles, it felt great. But it started tightening up during the last three miles to where I knew I shouldn't push it too hard.

With marathon training coming up very fast, I did not want to cost myself weeks of training for the sake of a PR. I will post a sub-2:05 half marathon time, but Sunday was not going to be that day.

The last three-fourths of a mile was exciting. You can see the resort in front of you, putting the finish line in sight. Consequently, my pace quicken and finished in a dead sprint for the final two-tenths of a mile.

One of my favorite medals I've received to date.
I posted a time of 2:13:05, another sub-2:15 time.

The finisher's medal is one of the best I received. Love the Santa Claus design. The swag in the good bag was lacking, especially compared to the other smaller half marathons I've run in, but I did like getting to GU gels and two Planter's peanut butter packets.

For a first-time event, the Santa Hustle Smokies Half was an overall success. There were not a great deal of people cheering along the way, but when the race is a long a touristy, business stretch of road, I didn't really expect a lot of 'fans' out.

I will say I was surprised they used Styrofoam cups. Not a fan of this, and I hope they change this next year. There was a post-race party, but that was nixed when the race organizers got on site, and the resort told them they couldn't bring any outside food in. Adrenaline Sports Management, the organizers, have already said on their Facebook page that they will make appropriate arrangements next year for a post-race party.

All in all, this was a fun race. And it sounds like they'll be back next year, and odds are, I'll be signing up for it.

Until next time, happy running!

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