The forecasted 4-8 inches of snow did not materialize this weekend, so I was able to make the drive to Fairmont with minimal stress. I arrived fairly early this year, so I was able to select from the full range of knit cap colors. I went with a nice, bright, lime green with black lettering, though it was hard to pass up the preppier blue and white striped versions. There's always next year!
Snow may have missed Fairmont but in it's place was a steady cold rain, not the kind that drenches you instantly, but rather the kind that falls almost imperceptibly until you realize you are soaked to the core. Not ideal for a 2 hour race, but at least it was warm enough to bear and there was very little ice to speak of. Due to to the conditions outside the majority of the runners stayed in the cozy warmth of the park visitor's center, creating a convivial atmosphere and an adrenaline charged humidity.
The race began at noon after a few words from the organizer. The size of the field was small enough that I was able to reach my ideal pace with a minimum of weaving, and I settled in quickly. In a half marathon I like to start slowly, taking my time and saving my energy for the second half of the race. It's nice to have gas in the tank for a strong finish.
Around mile 2 I developed a cramp, which was worrisome, but I managed to hang on and it dissipated by the 4th mile. I felt good for the rest of the race, especially around the 9th mile when my runner's high kicked into full gear. I finished with a respectable time of 1:50:49, improving on last year's time of 1:52:18 and coming in 4th in my age / gender category.
After grabbing a banana and what may be the best tasting pumpkin roll I've ever had, I headed back to my car to change into warm, dry clothes. I decided to get back on the road and back to the burgh while I was still feeling energetic (and I was craving a Dormont Dog, something not available in the hills of West Virginia).
It was a satisfying race, and a satisfying kick-off to my marathon training. There's a lot of work and a lot of miles ahead of me, but I feel ready and up for the challenge.