The Casual Runner

Drop Into a Fast Race

Event: Lake Health Running Series 20/10 Mile Drop Course
Event Date: April 10, 2016
Event Location: Fairport Harbor, Ohio

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Why I Decided to Run This Race

One day I decided to Google if there were going to be any races on my birthday this year in Ohio…I imagined that there had to be one. Thus I persuaded Mike that we should run a race for my birthday because that sounds like a great idea.  I settled on race that features both a 10 and 20 mile event put on as a part of the Lake Health Running Series

This race is positioned on the race calendar to be a tuneup for spring half marathons and marathons. However, I wanted to try out this course because…wait for it…they advertised that the race was going to be a DROP COURSE. Running downhill is always the best part of any course, but here was a course advertising itself as a downhill course. Score!  

I had originally wanted to run the 20 mile event, but Mike only wanted to run ZERO miles, so we compromised and agreed upon running the 10 mile event.

Getting There/the Lead-up to the Race

I felt well-trained for this race, since the Sunday before half of the Casual Runner Team had run the Cherry Blossom 10 miler in Washington D.C. (You can see Jennifer’s take on that race as well).  My main goal for this race was to try and set a personal record due to the advertised “drop.”  After a chilly race the weekend before in D.C. I was hoping for a much warmer race. Yeah, about that….

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Leading up to the race the weather did not look like it was going to be in my favor.  Originally race day was calling for 6 inches of snow the night before with a high of 15 degrees at race start.  Fortunately that weather would become slightly better.  It ended up snowing Friday night, so all roads and trails were able to be plowed before the race.

Its funny to say that we caught a break with the weather seeing how cold it was on race day (mid-20s, brrrr). But when you run a race in Ohio in April, you never know what you are going to get. It could be freezing cold (as it was), or it could be in the 80s. As we always say: Accept. Adjust. Advance.

The race director and staff deserve a shout out for sending a very well detailed email the day before the race.  It had all updated information necessary for packet pickup, the weather, and safety and logistic directions for the race. It was succinct, professional, and very helpful.

The Race Expo/Swag Review

We had prior commitments the days prior to the race, thus we were unable to attend the advance bib pickups, which were held at a local Second Sole (running store).  However, kudos to the race for having a race day pick up before the race.  We arrived at the finish line to pick up our bibs around 6:50 a.m.  As it was freezing outside Mike was an amazing boyfriend and walked up to the pavilion to pick up our bibs while I waited in the warm coziness of the car. Hey, I did say that it was my birthday.

For a local race the Lake Health Running Series does a nice job of delivering on the race shirts. I am always a fan of races that respect female runners by giving the option of BOTH unisex and women’s cuts, and this race did just that. This is just one of the many signs that organizers put in the extra effort to deliver a great race day experience for runners. 

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The Gear

This is the most race gear I ever have ran in.  I am not one to run in cold weather, as I would choose running on the treadmill any day of the week that the mercury drops below comfortable. I pretty much repeated my outfit from the Cherry Blossom 10 miler, but then added an extra layer.  

On top I had my 2015 runDisney Wine and Dine dry fit jacket, pink Reebok sweat wicking long sleeve shirt, purple Under Armour ribbed tank top, VSX Incredible bra, VS PINK thick black leggings, Swiftwick mid-calf yellow socks, and Adrenaline 16 GTS Brooks running shoes.  

I also had my iPhone for my music and RunKeeper, my Garmin watch, running belt, headphones, Sweaty Band, three salted caramel GUs and a Powerade Zero.  Then for extra warmth I had on North Face sweat whicking gloves, ear warming headband, and a Buff that, ironically enough, I received from the Run and Ride Series during the Cedar Point Half Marathon – a race that I ran when it was 90 degrees.

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The Pre-Race

After picking up our bibs and race shirts we parked the car and headed onto a school bus that would take us to the start line.  The bus ride seemed to be much longer than ten miles, but seeing as they could not drive on the trails to get us there I am sure they had to take us on back roads. The buses arrived with about 20 minutes to spare.  We spent that time using the bathrooms and headed to the start line.  I will say that the actual start of the race was a little chaotic/rushed.  I only knew that the race started thanks to an air horn, thus there was very little warning and I did not have my phone ready to go with my music and RunKeeper.

Along the Course

The course lived up to its name from the word “go.” We started off with a nice (and I mean nice) downhill portion. It is amazing what a downhill start will do for one’s confidence! We started out in a residential area, where the roads had been cleared. Seriously, shout out to the local road crews as, despite the cold and snowy conditions that weekend, the roads were clear and safe. Thank you!

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Do you think that they made her pay for 2 bibs?

The first mile was FAST. I loved it. We had some slight uphill climbs, but for the most part the drop course was living up to its billing. Before the 1 mile mark we made our way onto a wooded running trail. As I said before, there are 2 events to this race: a 20 miler and a 10 miler. The 20 miler begins earlier in the morning and meets up with the 10 mile course after the latter’s first mile. At this point the trail was a little congested, but not terribly so and it soon worked its way out.

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The next two miles (all on the trail) were gorgeous rolling hills. Yes, there were some uphills, but the momentum from the downhills kept you going, and it was a FAST 5k for me. This was as close to a snow skiing experience as I have ever had during a running race. It was a great experience and by far my favorite section of the whole course.

We soon made our way off of the trail and out into residential neighborhoods.  At this point I realized how spoiled the first 5k made me. While the course was a net drop the rest of the way, it was not as pronounced as it had been in the beginning. So, while my overall time would benefit from the course design, I found myself wanting more. Hey, it was my birthday!

Race officials did a good job of marking the course with cones and directional arrows. Also, for a race of this size, I was impressed with how many quality water and gel stops there were throughout the course. The volunteers did a great job of fueling us up and getting us back on our way.

The course is designed to end at a beach on the shores of Lake Erie. Some cruel supporters put together a sign on the course telling us that there was a beach waiting for us at the finish…and then added pictures of gorgeous tropical beaches to taunt us in the sub-freezing temps. All of the points they get for creativity are forfeited for utter cruelty. Ok, maybe not, it did make me laugh.

As we made our way to the beach finish, we crossed two sets of railroad tracks and were treated to fast sections of course. At this point all there was to do was pin your ears back and go for a personal best!

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Just before the finish we started seeing spectators gathered to cheer us on. My only real issue with this course was the finish. We made a right turn and left the cleared roads to make the last tenth of a mile or so across an uphill portion of a snow covered grass field. Yeah, not my favorite. Even under good weather conditions, a spring race over a field is likely to be slippery and muddy. This however, did not dampen my appreciation for this fast course that helped me deliver a PR pace!

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The SMOpinion

I was very impressed with these medals!  The medals were the shape of Ohio with runners on it running downhill.  It also had a nicely detailed ribbon.

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The medal far outpaced my expectations for a local race. Remind me again why not every race director puts this much care and effort into bling?

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The Post-Race Experience

Unfortunately I did not stay around to enjoy the post race experience in most part due to the cold.  After crossing the finish line I was given my medal and a bottle of water, then I walked a few more feet to grab a heat/sheet (yes, there were plenty to go around at this race) then hopped right into the car.  Mike finished a few minutes before me and already had a nice warm car waiting for me (did I mention that it was my birthday?).  Had we stuck around we would have been able to enjoy the pancake breakfast provided to runners.

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Playlist Peek

I have been using the same playlist since the Hooters Half Marathon back in March.  I have become very familiar and have decided that I definitely need an updated playlist to run at Disney next week for the Star Wars 10K and Half Marathon.  I will say though that when “Stronger” by Kelly Clarkson and “Geronimo” by Sheppard came on during the race I definitely picked up my running speed, so those songs will definitely be on next week’s playlist.

Looking Back Now

If I were to run this race again I feel that I would wait until the morning of the race to decide if I was going to run it since they have race day sign up available.  Early April is an unpredictable time of year to run. I have been water skiing on this date in Ohio in the past.  But on this day, in this weather, there is no way I was going anywhere near water. I think Mike would be more willing to commit to this race earlier than I would. Then again, he is an idiot and runs outside in the freezing cold when I’m comfortable and happy inside on the treadmill. 

If the weather is better next year, I actually would even be interested in running the 20 mile course to see if there is more of a drop in the first ten miles compared to the second half. Plus, I could always chase another PR pace!

Enjoy the freedom of going wherever your feet, imagination, & determination take you!

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Enjoy the freedom of going wherever your feet, imagination, & determination take you!

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