Today, I completed my 3rd ever half marathon and my first of this year.  I ran the Dismal Swamp Stomp Half Marathon at the Great Dismal Swamp Canal Trail.  The half marathon was part of the Dismal Swamp Stomp Festival that included the half marathon, a 5k, and a 1/2 mile Cub Run for the little ones.  This year marked the 11th running of this event and I have to tell you that I had a great time.

THE EXPO

If there were to be a disappointment it would be the ‘expo.’ To be honest, it was just a glorified packet pick up event that had just a couple of vendors.  I was literally in and out in 5 minutes so it was efficient if nothing else.

THE RACE

Saturday morning, I woke up at 5:30 to get ready for the race.  Amazingly enough, this felt late to wake up for a race.  I love local races for this very reason. I had laid out all of my gear the night before with one exception, my hydration belt.  I figured that wasn’t a big deal as I would grab it, fill up my water bottles and drop my Gu packets in the pouch on the way out the door.  Well, it turns out that it was a big deal as after spending nearly 15 minutes looking for my belt, I still hadn’t put my hands on it, so I opted to go without it.  I also got the unpleasant surprise of reaching for my Gu packets to find that I only had one left. I typically carry at least two for a half marathon.  This was not starting out to be the best of days.  I also made the decision to hydrate as much as possible before the race since I wouldn’t be able to carry water during the run and would have to rely on the water stations.  More on this decision later.  Here’s my race attire (I did add a long sleeve Under Armor shirt underneath as the temps were slightly below 40 when I left the house.

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I arrived at the Great Dismal Swamp around 7:15 which gave me 45 minutes to park, stretch out, and take care of all my normal pre-race activities.  I met up with a few members of The Running Turtles for a traditional pre-race photo.

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Prior to the start of the race as I was walking around, I came across a sign that was slightly disconcerting.  Then again, maybe it was motivational.

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With roughly 12 minutes before the start of the race, my excessive hydrating kicked in.  I raced to the port-a-potty and made it back to the start line with about 5 minutes to spare. This was shaping up to be an interesting morning and the race hadn’t even started.

The race itself was relatively uneventful except for having to make a potty stop at mile 5. I had planned out my race strategy well in advance and for the first time in my life, I actually stuck to the plan.  The plan was to run the first mile straight to allow the pack to thin out a bit.  Once I reached the 1 mile mark I would settle into a run/walk/run of 90 seconds run, 30 seconds walk.  I maintained this all the way to the 12.6 mile mark and then I ran the final half mile straight through.

The course was an incredibly straight and flat out and back run.  The first five miles were pretty much completely in the woods and it opened up for the last mile and a half before the turnaround.  Want to see how straight it was?  Check this out.

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The highlight of the race itself for me was seeing first hand the benefits of the Galloway run/walk/run method first hand.  There was a guy that passed me between miles 2 and 3. He was running the entire race straight through.  I never lost sight of him after he passed me, and shortly after the turnaround, I passed him never to see him again.  The second half of the race was incredibly enjoyable for me as I picked off many more runners than picked me off.  This was also the first half where I haven’t actually hit the wall before crossing the finish line.  In my first half, I hit the wall at mile 9, and then two months later in Baltimore, I hit the wall at mile 12.  This is encouraging considering November’s Richmond Marathon is getting closer by the day. Check out my splits.

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Well, my Garmin time was 2:07:54, my chip time was 2:07:52 which was almost a 20 minute PR for me.  My previous best was in Baltimore and it was 2:27:19.  To say I was ecstatic would be a drastic understatement.  Here’s a few pics from the finish area.IMG_3784IMG_3785IMG_3787FullSizeRender

THE SWAG

There wasn’t a ton of swag, but it was definitely good.  In addition to post race water, bananas, and BBQ, each runner received a large drawstring bag, a tech shirt and of course the ‘bling.’

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The bottom line is that I thoroughly enjoyed this race.  Well placed water stations (every 2 miles), and a flat and fast course.  What’s not to like?  The one thing this race is missing is crowd support, but as it takes place on a paved trail, there really isn’t anywhere for spectators to be on the course.  You just have to get in the zone and go.  I can definitely see myself returning to this race next year.

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