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Ithaca Gorges Half Marathon - RunHalf Marathon

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Ithaca, New York
United States
Red Newt Racing
53F / 12C
Total Time = 2h 49m
Overall Rank = 483/513
Age Group = F40-49
Age Group Rank = 62/71
Pre-race routine:

Drove to Ithaca Friday with my pal LT and we headed straight to the running store to do packet pickup and a little shopping. I was the only one racing, LT is just along for the fun! I bought a new pair of trail shoes and some nutrition stuff, tried on some hydration vests but didn't purchase any.

We checked into the hotel, then hit Collegetown Bagels for supper because they had a decent gluten-free menu for LT, yummy options for me, and items we could buy for breakfast in the am. We enjoyed people watching on their patio in the lovely evening, then headed back to the hotel and chilled some more after getting our things in order for tomorrow morning. LT was planning to do a short training run during the race.

I slept a bit better than normal for the night before a race, fairly solidly until around 3:30, then fitfully until 5:15, getting up before the alarm. I filled the bottles of my Fuel Belt and made sure I had my gel flask. I choked down half a bagel with cream cheese with some iced tea, then slowly worked on a frosted cherry Pop-Tart on the way to the race. At that hour of the morning we had hardly any traffic and got there in under 10 minutes. We parked in the parking garage and hung out in the car a little until it was time to head to the start area.

The start area was a very short walk from the garage, but it was not super obvious where the start actually was. We asked someone where the porta-johns were, then after taking care of that, had to ask someone else where the start line was. I felt a bit like a goober but it was a bit confusing! In the meantime, we ran into some friends from our area who were also racing and chatted with them.

It looked like it was going to be a good weather day for the race, cool in the am but heating up fairly quickly with no precipitation and plenty of sunshine. I'd rather it stayed cooler longer, but I'll take what I can get!
Event warmup:

None, really, just standing around chatting, doing some light stretching.
  • 2h 49m
  • 13.1 miles
  • 12m 54s  min/mile

I went into this race knowing my training wasn't where it should be, so had my mind set on finishing, hopefully finishing as pain-free as possible (knees), and otherwise just enjoying the day and the beauty of the area. I had a very loose time/pace goal which I largely threw out the window when I got more info on the hill(s).

The atmosphere was very laid back and chill, which doesn't surprise me given the general mindset of Ithaca. There were no pacers nor corrals, so I self-seeded toward the back. There were some race announcements regarding directions that I couldn't hear, and a bit later without any real fanfare or hoopla, we were off!

I started off at the pace I hoped to keep during the first 7-8 miles, the flat miles. The race course was definitely scenic as we ran along waterways with sculling boats and people fishing, through parks and around town, many parts were shaded. There was goose poop to dodge like landmines along the one path. LT, the master at race spectating, made sure to see me in the first mile, then again twice during miles 2-3.

During this little stretch I swore I heard bagpipes across the water but didn't see any. I hoped they were out there for us, and later when the race crossed over into a different park, there they were, two men in full authentic dress playing bagpipes! I cheered and clapped for them as I shuffled by. I thanked just about every volunteer, police officer and fire police who helped with the race.

I knew the latter part of the race would only have water and no electrolyte drink, so at the first 2 or 3 aide stations I took GuBrew from the volunteers and sipped at the water in my Fuel Belt, only occasionally taking a draw from my own electrolyte drink.

I think it was around miles 5-6 there were two low suspension bridges we needed to run across. The first one was very bad with the waving motion, for lack of the word I really want, making it tricky to run. What I mean is there were multiple runners on the bridge at once, making it undulate but not necessarily in the undulating that corresponded with one's footfalls. It was a bit awkward and I was glad to be over them.

We came out of the parks into sight of big, beautiful Cayuga lake. It was calling me, "Melbo, come swim in me, you know you want to! I'm cool, clean, refreshing..." Somehow I resisted its siren song and kept to the task of running.

I saw it coming. As we ran away from the [beautiful, cool, refreshing] lake, I could see we were headed toward the hills. Oh boy. At mile 7.54, the climb began! I was a bit hot because the last mile or so was in the sun without shade, so fairly quickly after beginning the climb I slowed to a quick walk. The lower section of the 1.5 mile hill was fairly steep, and I honestly don't think I'd have run much more of the lower section had I been in better shape. It was brutal!

I kept telling myself something a friend said once, "If you're going to walk, at least walk fast". I tried to keep my steps quick and short. Eventually, after a few switchbacks the hill grade decreased some and I did some run/walk intervals. I began talking to a lady who was telling me how much worse the race was last year with steeper hills and starting later when it was hot. We stayed together for a little while, then we both got distracted by a dog with a volunteer at an intersection. We both went over to pet it but she lingered longer than I.

I think somewhere near mile 10 was back in some park that featured some overlooks of the valley and it was beautiful! The watermelon that was at the aide station at this point was also beautiful, LOL, and tasty! I told the girl handing them out that I've been waiting to see her all day! At this point I was laughing at the array of things spilled all over me: water, sweat, GuBrew, Infinit, EFS gel, now watermelon juice! Who am I kidding, add snot to the list.

Eventually we made our way through some rolling terrain, getting back out into town and running on sidewalks. Not my favorite thing, but necessary since the roads weren't closed. I did more walk/run depending on the terrain. It was starting to get hot even though the route was still mostly shaded. At one point I passed a house that had a sprinkler running on the lawn. If it wouldn't have involved going down, then back up about 5 steps I'd have been in the thing for sure!

As we worked our way down from the higher elevation, we saw little and big waterfalls in the gorges that makes Ithaca famous. At one of the bigger ones, we ran over a bridge that clears the gorge which is a popular spot for people to look at it from above. It was here that some tourists or gorge-lookers weren't paying attention and walked right in front of me and stopped. It took a few calls out to them to snap them out of their fascination with the water and get them to move out of our way.

Making our way closer still to the more populated part of town and the finish line, I kept seeing writing every 50-100 feet or so in sidewalk chalk referencing beer and showing directional arrows. By this point, I'm figuring they are talking about the beer(s) we get at the finish. Nope, there is an informal aide station that has PBR and water! Naturally, since I wasn't 'racing', I stopped, had a water, had a beer, and chatted with the folks. Turns out one of them saw my Got the Nerve Tri shirt and said she's done that race 5 years in a row and used to live in the area, so we talked about the race for a little. Eventually I continued on my mission to the finish!

It was a semi-steep descent from here and the roads weren't the best, so I sort of ran/walked my way down carefully. LT was at the bottom, cheering me on, I was so surprised to see her! I asked her to trade knees with me but she wouldn't give them up. After leaving her, it was mostly flat to the finish. At the final aide station they had a sprinkler that I could run through and did, so nice! As I drank a water and jogged through the aide station, a volunteer said to me, "Well, at least you aren't last!" I had no idea what to make of that statement. I briefly pondered what the heck he was talking about, then said something like, "Thank heavens!", then continued to ponder it as I ran. It was true, but why did he feel the need to tell me that?

The final 1.5 miles to the finish...I spotted a woman ahead of me who I had been yo-yo-ing with all day. She stopped to walk. I made it my goal to try to catch her and pass her and slowly I reeled her in even as she began to slowly run again. Granted, I didn't have much umph at this point either, so it was a battle of the broken, LOL. I did manage to pass her, then made myself stay steady to the finish and not let her catch me. Mission accomplished!

What would you do differently?:

Eh, I suppose not much, really. I knew my current limitations and respected them, the plan was simply to finish and enjoy the day. Possibly eat more watermelon? Drink more beer? ;)
Post race
Warm down:

All finishers received a filled event water bottle, and it was a nice one, a Specialized Purist. We also received an aluminum (?) plaque for lack of a better word with the name and year of the race with a nice graphic. Got my water and met up with LT and the other friends from our area who had raced. My friend ended up giving me half of her beer, she didn't want it all.

LT and I first sat near the stage but it was kind of hot in the sun, so we found a nice table and chairs in the shade and commenced to people watching and listening to the music. In the meantime, I added a free beer and a soda LT bought for me to my drink collection. We sat there pretty long, enjoying the breeze and the beautiful day, watching the crazy fitness contests being held by a local sporting goods supplier.

After the race I had quite the busy/interesting day. I wanted to get some pics of the many murals around the town, so we just got the ones close to the parking garage. There were some really cool ones on the race route but I didn't feel like walking all over town to get the pics. We went back to the car and it wouldn't start. Ugh. AAA membership, here's your time to be worthwhile!

Despite the computer message stating higher than normal call volumes, I wasn't on hold very long. Once the service request was placed, I didn't wait very long for the tow truck to arrive, either. It would've been shorter had he gone to the correct garage first. It was about a half an hour. He was only able to give my car a jump, he didn't have the correct battery along my car would need, so I asked him if he could recommend a garage. Advanced Auto Parts, here we come!

At AAP I discovered they only had one really expensive battery that would fit my car, much more than I wanted or needed to spend. The sales guy suggested I go to Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart it is!

Went to Wal-Mart and after a few fits and starts and very interesting characters, finally got a battery installed and we were ready to roll again! By now we are STARVING! It's maybe 2:30 and I didn't eat anything post-race and LT only had a Stinger waffle or some little thing. Next stop: Moe's! We freaking devoured our food.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

Not being quite where I should've been with training. Carrying quite a few extra pounds. Stopping and talking to the people at the beer/water table. Petting the dog. But they were all worthwhile detours in my mind considering I wasn't 'racing'!

Event comments:

This was a beautiful race and well-run event. I heard from other racers that improvements were made since 2015 (the inaugural year) and that the improvements were good. I'd definitely like do the race again, but be better trained for it. Likely I'd still need to walk a good bit of that hill, but that's OK!

Profile Album

Last updated: 2016-01-04 12:00 AM
02:49:00 | 13.1 miles | 12m 54s  min/mile
Age Group: 0/71
Overall: 0/513
Course: You'll warm up w/ a seven flat miles running from the Commons west to the Cayuga Waterfront Trail, end-to-end through Cass and Stewart Parks before tackling the Sunset Ascent into and through Cayuga Heights. You'll lose all the elevation gain into mile 12 through a quick and really cool Cascadilla descent before ending w/ a Fall Creek loop into the finish just shy of the Commons.
Keeping cool Average Drinking Just right
Post race
Weight change: %
Mental exertion [1-5]
Physical exertion [1-5]
Good race? Ok
Course challenge
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Good
Race evaluation [1-5] 4

2016-06-24 4:25 PM

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Subject: Ithaca Gorges Half Marathon

2016-06-27 7:32 PM
in reply to: #5188495

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West Chester, Ohio
Subject: RE: Ithaca Gorges Half Marathon

That is one wicked hill towards the end of the course!! Ithaca is full of monstrous hills, seems like they could have worked them in evenly.

Good work!

2016-06-28 8:34 AM
in reply to: QueenZipp

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Simsbury, Connecticut
Subject: RE: Ithaca Gorges Half Marathon
Holy crap that elevation gain looks ugly!

Sounds like you took in everything the course had to offer (views, beer, watermelon)! Glad you had a good race.

Another one in the books! Congrats!
2016-06-29 1:42 PM
in reply to: mtnbikerchk

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Subject: RE: Ithaca Gorges Half Marathon

Great strategy idea: "I started off at the pace I hoped to keep during the first 7-8 miles" and waita catch the woman at the end!!!


Now for the really great stuff, loved the land-mine dodging of the goose crap hahaha. And YOU ARE A CHAMP for stopping for that PBR. 

Great race. I just love your write-ups and attitude. 

2016-07-01 8:52 AM
in reply to: Asalzwed

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Subject: RE: Ithaca Gorges Half Marathon

Holy hell, that elevation profile scares me!  I love that you stopped to pet the dog and drink the beer, that's the way to realize your goal of having a fun race!!  Your after race activities don't sound too great though, so next time I suggest skipping the car not starting thing   

2016-07-05 11:45 AM
in reply to: amd723

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Middle River, Maryland
Bronze member
Subject: RE: Ithaca Gorges Half Marathon

What a fun race!!  And way to stop for that beer!

2016-07-05 1:37 PM
in reply to: #5188495

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Englewood, Florida
Subject: RE: Ithaca Gorges Half Marathon

Well played Melanie! Congratulations on a great race.

2016-07-05 3:09 PM
in reply to: cdban66

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Falls Church, Virginia
Subject: RE: Ithaca Gorges Half Marathon
Whoa, that elevation profile is no joke! Glad you had a fun day!
2016-07-06 12:22 PM
in reply to: Atlantia

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Subject: RE: Ithaca Gorges Half Marathon

Great job on keeping it all in perspective and having fun. Even your car troubles don't seem to have bugged you much! 


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Training for a specific running event is not as easy as it might seem. Here are some tips and a weekly plan to avoid overtraining and to improve your performance.
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Having three seasons under my belt I thought I knew what I was doing. That all changed with a few new challenges and a bunch of new friends.
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