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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Paine to Pain Trail Half Marathon - Race Report

Sunday October 14th, 2012, 6:00AM.  Raceday.  The alarm on my phone rudely awakens my unusually restful sleep the night prior to a race.  With an hour and a half before my wife and I needed to leave the hotel, I figured I had a little extra time and to hit the snooze, which didn't last long because I knew what kind of hurt I'd be in if I didn't follow my pre-race routine.  My leisurely morning consisted of coffee, a blueberry muffin and a banana as well as catching up on some local NYC news (which interestingly, on two different channels, 100% of the on camera staff were women...not a good or bad thing...just an observation).  The ladies' weather forecast called for temps starting in the 50s with a slight chance of showers in the morning, then quickly rising to near 70 by noon.  Sounded like a good reason to run fast!

This time also gave me the chance to sit and lazily ponder why I was here.

No seriously...WHY WAS I HERE?!?  Did I really just drive 4 hours to New York City to run on some trails?  I have TONS of trails to run on at home, including one you may have heard of: The Appalachian Trail, less than 15 minutes drive from my front door.  So what was the purpose of this journey?  I didn't have anything to prove; I know I'm not going to win, and I'm sure a hell not going to set a PR.

- Maybe I came for the medal?
- Challenge myself on a farther trail race than I've ever run before?  Possibly.
- Or maybe I just wanted to complete a half in NY State to have that notch in my belt.

One thing was certain though...Despite the how and why, I would be running 13.1 miles today on rocks, roots, through water, over boardwalks, on catwalks, by golf courses, and maybe even into a horse's ass along the way (trust me, this disclaimer is worth the couple of minutes to read).

We arrived at New Rochelle High School just before 8am, plenty of time to head over to Paine Cottage, pick up my race packet and other pre-race goodies like a water bottle, and a very nice tech race shirt with wrap around graphics. REI also had a table set up with complimentary Clif gels and bars.  In addition, there was a bag check which I wouldn't be needing since my wife was spectating today and serving as my pack animal for a few hours (thanks honey!).

While jogging around the start area, I discovered several historical markers including this one pictured below, explaining to guys like me who were fast asleep in history class, why exactly we should remember who this Thomas Paine fella was.

The starting area was well organized, and at first I thought they may have gone way overboard on the number of porta-potties (but in the closing minutes up to the race start at 9am, the lines were 10-12 deep).

Lonely porta-potties at 8:23AM
As reported in the past, I normally use my phone with a fitness app such as RunKeeper or Endomondo for tracking runs.  It's very convenient having everything contained in a single device (music, GPS tracking, emergency calls) but since headphones were banned from this trail race for safety reasons, it was going to be considerably more convenient to use my wife's Garmin Forerunner 210 to track pace.  I'd been using it for the past week getting the hang of the controls so I didn't screw it up on race day.

Satellites: found.  Ready to run.

As usual, I had my Spibelt bib rig, which I still love for races, it carries all I need: gels, bib and phone.  The timing chip for this race was on the back of the bib...which I also love since it's basically idiot-proof.

Simple bungee and cord lock system on the Spibelt

Due to the popularity of the race this year, it was a wave start, four of them in total.  I was in the second wave, ready to go off at the gunshot at 9:05am.  After a few short steps, me and 200 of my newest friends had our first run in with cheerleaders from the local high school doing a fantastic job lifting our spirits as we drove up the first climb, which was a perfectly designed half mile road run to stretch out the waves before we hit the trails.  It ended up working just as planned without any bottlenecks.  Mind you, we were on each other's heels, but there wasn't any noticeable loss of pace once we said goodbye to the pavement.

(New Rochelle High School?) Cheerleaders lining the first few hundred meters of the course
All smiles about a third of a mile into the race.  I'm a short guy, but not nearly as much as this photo makes it look!

Once on the trails, we had the usual passing and adjusting through the first 3 miles of a half marathon, just made a little more interesting with the sometimes rocky and twisting conditions.  I got my phone out for a few blurry photos along the way, but for the most part kept it stowed away so I could focus on the trail and everyone around me.  During this section we ran on a series of wooden boardwalks, the only ones we'd see on the course.  The remainder of the race surface was either paved road crossings, dirt or gravel trail, small (3-4 foot wide) stream crossings, or the final 300 meters on the track.  With all of these friendly surfaces under foot, I was comfortably keeping around an 8:30 pace.

Trail scene around mile 5 the finish line...

The kids had a chance to get some racing in today too; my wife got this shot of the top few finishers in the fun run; they seem to be having a good time:

and...back to the course...

The field around me continued to thin out, and we had several road crossings manned by local police and countless enthusiastic volunteers.  At around mile 7, we actually ran right up the side of a golf course fairway, of which I miraculously managed to get a non-blurry photo.  The gentlemen on the golf course didn't seem to mind our presence, probably because the only sounds coming from our direction were footsteps; there wasn't a whole lot of chatter at any point along the race and for good reason - we were all working pretty hard putting one foot in front of the other!  After the golf course was an aid station where afterwards I sucked down my second energy gel.  I'm still trying to figure out my nutrition during races, and while I continued to feel good through the remainder of the course, I'm not completely sold on the gels; I suspect they're the cause of some post race "digestion problems", but I guess I'll have a few more races this fall/winter to get it all sorted out.

Fore! the finish line....

The leader was coming down the home stretch and completed his half marathon in a time that I could only dream of: 1:23:26.

The first place female came in shortly after, in 1:31:39, crushing the ladies' course record by almost 8 minutes - congratulations!
Good form, all the way to the end.
Us slowpokes were meanwhile still enjoying the course's scenery and at roughly mile 11 we passed under the Hutchinson River Parkway for the last time, and as you can see the field really was stretching out by this point, and we were pretty much around the people we'd be finishing with.  

This is the final blurry photo...I promise.
At mile 12.6 we emerged from Nature Study Woods Park to a gang of enthusiastic cheerleaders lining the road on either side, and to whom I gave a round of applause for their support which in turn produced deafening cheers from their end.  The mutual appreciation was electrifying, and in stereo...from my standpoint.  Thanks girls - you gave me the emotional burst I needed for the final half mile.

When I arrived at the stadium however, there was some crazy lady yelling at the top of her lungs (and this is literally what I thought when I heard the voice).  Admittedly after 13 miles, my mind may have been playing tricks on me, but it took a few seconds to realize that it was my wife belting out "RUN FASTER!!!".  She knew that I was actually very close to a PR time and obviously really wanted me to give it everything I had to try and finish as close to 1:51:12 as possible.

Here's the math:  my PR was set in June of this year at the appropriately named PR Run in Oil City, PA.  My time was 1:46:12 and since I began in the second wave today at 9:05AM...well, you understand.

This kid is mesmerized by my finishing  He also has really good taste in clothing colors.

Crossing the finish line, just over a minute off of a PR
One major thing to consider here, is that I'm basing all of this PR talk off of my road half marathon times, so coming within 2 minutes on this trail run was quite the accomplishment in my book.  I was extremely pleased with my time, and how my legs felt throughout the run.

Don't mind me...just hangin' out on the 50 yard line

So in the end, was the 4 hour one-way trip to NYC worth it?  Most certainly.  It was a fabulously run event with a great course.  There were no out and back sections or double loops.  The enthusiasm of the volunteers and cheerleaders was just icing on the cake, not to mention the post race food, massages, stadium finish, quickly posted online results and photos...the list goes on and on.

Thanks to everyone involved in making the race a success; I had a great time.  Next race for me?  Hershey Half Marathon on 10/21/12...yep...less than a week from the P2P.  I think I'm crazy.


  1. Ian, your 1:47 finish translates to about a 1:34 road race. We know this by comparing P2P times with a road 1/2 marathon one week away from ours, and comparing the results of people who ran both. It is about a 12% differential, or roughly a minute per mile for the middle of the pack (though you were clearly ahead of the middle). Two years ago I ran both events and had 1:48/1:35.

    If you had run a road race Sunday, you would have blown the doors off your PR.

    I'm glad you enjoyed the day. Thank you for the review. And we hope to see you again.

  2. Thanks for the review & great pics! Really enjoyed reading this! That was one awesome & challenging course for sure!

    I'd say that's about right with what Eric said above - Two weeks before this race I ran the Hamptons Half in 2 hours, 4 min. This race I finished in 2 hrs, 17 min...I remember reading to add almost a minute to your road time. My husband finished in 1:57 compared to 1:50 road finish time two weeks prior as well...

  3. Fantastic race report. Love the pictures you took. I wish I had taken more pictures too.