2008-09-21 - Bachman Valley Half Marathon

13.1 miles @ 12.7 min/mi

A mysterious brick-red step-pyramid looms in the distance above fields of corn and soybeans. It looks like the ruins of a great castle, with ragged gaps in what were once proud towers and daunting battlements. But as the sun rises and the light changes the castle transforms, gradually, into what it really is: a neolithic mountain of hay-bales, stacked to the sky on the crest of a hill.

Christina Caravoulias and I are at a farm near Westminister MD for the 26th annual Bachman Valley Half Marathon today. This race is so cost-effective at $8 pre-registration fee that I can't possibly resist. Besides, it's a chance to run for a few hours with a good friend along country lanes—what's not to like? So we leave Chris's home at 5:25am and cruise cautiously northward, chatting while watching out for stray deer. Strands of fog linger above a pond near the course. We stop and take photos, then drive on, park on the grass as directed by volunteers, sign in, visit with friends, and as 0730 approaches line up on the road for the Race Director to send us away.

"The 'E' on our bibs means Elite!" I tell a fellow early starter. There are only seven of us: a mother and two daughters doing their first half marathon together, a pair of dressed-in-black ladies, and Christina plus me. The rest of the flock prefer to begin at 8am. Black cows graze in the fields and horses lift their heads to watch us pass by. It's a cool morning, with a last-quarter moon sailing high overhead behind a spray of cirrus clouds.

My quads and left hip ITB are a wee bit tight after yesterday's trail run, and this distance is a bit of a stretch for Christina, so neither of us plan to go fast. We both survived the Parks Half Marathon last Sunday under crushing humidity and heat. Today begins with far gentler weather, a temperature rising from 50°F into the 70s and a dew point pleasantly fixed near 50. The big issue for us is the sun, since the course is largely unshaded. Our first lap goes well, as cheerful volunteers greet us at every corner and the aid stations offer water, pretzels, candy, and occasional energy gels. I try a "Honey Stinger" gel packet and find the granular texture distracting but the sweet flavor pleasant. A sample of "Power Bar" cola-flavored "Gel Blast" gummy-bear-like candies is likewise fun, but unengaging in comparison to the salty pretzels. At every opportunity I take two or three and wear them on my fingers like rings until I eat them.

Lap two is tougher, but Chris continues to challenge the hills and we accelerate to a strong finish together. Our splits: 12:59 + 12:42 + 12:09 + 12:22 + 11:55 + 12:07 + 12:38 + 11:39 + 13:49 + 13:10 + 14:07 + 12:52 + 13:00 + 1:01 (final 0.1 mile dash) — for a total 2:46:30 time by my watch.

(cf. Jog Log) - ^z - 2008-09-29

(correlates: Comments on 2008-09-21 - Bachman Valley Half Marathon, OnAcclimation, 2008-08-16 - Comus Run 2008, ...)