Blue-Gray Half Marathon Race Recap

By Janelle @ Run With No Regrets | race recap

Apr 30

On April 25, I ran my first half marathon since becoming a mom: the Blue-Gray Half Marathon in Gettysburg, PA!

It was an unexpected race due to originally being signed up for the Delaware Half Marathon that was postponed, but I’m glad I was able to still have an in-person race as we still deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now I’m finally sharing my recap of the experience. This has taken a bit longer for me to put together…but better late than never!

I'm sharing my first experience racingin-person since COVID and since becoming a mom – check my recap of the Gettysburg Blue-Gray Half Marathon! #runchat #bibchat #motherrunner #runningisnotcancelled Click To Tweet

I’m linking up with Tuesday Topics with Zenaida and KimRunners’ Roundup with Coach Debbie RunsConfessions of a Mother RunnerLaura Norris RunningMile by Mile, and Runs with Pugs, and My First 5K and MoreRunning With AttitudeRun Laugh Eat PieRuns with Pugs, and Zenaida for Fit Five Friday!

Gettysburg Half Marathon Recap

Getting to Gettysburg

Gettysburg is about a 2-hour drive from Philadelphia, so we planned on using the weekend as a mini-getaway with Baby E. We drove to Gettysburg late in the morning on Saturday to arrive around lunchtime. The tricky thing about traveling with a baby is revolving things around her schedule! So we wanted to make sure she had her nap and wouldn’t be cranky. We ended up going downtown for lunch at a local restaurant. We ate outside (as we always do these days) and it was a bit jarring to see so many people out and about but thankfully, most people wore masks. However, indoor dining was way too packed for my liking.

After lunch, we made our way to the Wyndham Hotel, part of the Gettysburg Gateway Complex. This would actually be where the race would start and finish, so the convenience was unbeaten. Unfortunately, that was where the convenience ended and I ended up having a miserable experience at this hotel. We checked in and my race bib and T-shirt were handed to me easily, but it was confirmed that check-out would be strictly at 10:00 am due to COVID restrictions. Yet the race, which includes a full marathon, didn’t start until 8:00 am. With hundreds of participants and the Wyndham being one of 2 official hotels for this race, how did they not foresee a problem? The front desk had no more late check-in allowances, so I would have to check out on time and request a key to the pool so that I could change in the locker room after the race. Welp, this was a first! I was absolutely livid, but what could I do?

The Night Before

Naturally, this experience soured the rest of the day but I did my best to make the most of it. We drove around Gettysburg’s landmarks for a couple of hours which was really cool with so much history. Then we went to dinner at a nice distillery. To take the edge off, I had a flight of miniature cocktails and they were all good! We had a good time but again, Baby E’s schedule was out of wack so that made things a little stressful.

A much-needed drink…

We got back to the hotel and got E ready for bed. She normally sleeps at 6 pm and it was a little after 7, but she adapted relatively well as we did our nighttime routine. Of course, as soon as I put her in the pack ‘n play she was having none of it! So I let her cuddle with me in the bed until she fell asleep, and after a half-hour, I put her back down and she was good for the night. Bret went to a Sheetz and picked up some bottled water and snacks for the next day. I watched Family Feud and The Masked Singer before falling asleep sometime after 9.

Race Morning

This was definitely the most chaotic race morning I’d ever had. Because of the lovely hotel policy, we had to check out of the room as soon as we ate breakfast (more clutch Sheetz) and got dressed. Because we had E with us, I needed to help Bret pack up and load the car. We had her Pack ‘n Play, Osprey carrier, BOB stroller, plus her diaper bag and our weekend bags. The other problem is that I couldn’t remember what time I needed to line up for the race. I knew that there were 2 waves after 8:00, but when I went on the website to confirm, the site was shut down! Seriously! I grew panicky, frustrated, and stressed. My hands were shaking as I was trying to fill my bladder in my hydration vest. I was a mess.

The Starting Line

I finally think things are fine as the car is loaded up, but then I realize I don’t have my cell phone. I end up going back to the hotel room to search for it, and it has to be 8:00 by now…but it wasn’t there. I go back to the car to discover that it was in my purse pocket. Sheesh! Now I can FINALLY head to the race start, which is thankfully only a few steps away, and I start doing my warmup routine before heading in line. I had no idea what the organization was, as the area seemed pretty lacking in social distancing, so once I warmed up I got in where I fit in with mask up! Bret had E in the stroller and I would get to see them at the 7.5 mile mark. They cheered me on as I headed off at 8:20!

Miles 1-5

I had Coach Laura’s advice in my head and I wanted to make sure that I didn’t start out too fast. The first mile was pretty crowded, but I did my best to get in racing mode after everything I went through that morning! Of course, my music on Spotify didn’t want to cooperate, so I had to fumble with my phone almost the entire race. Early on there was a pretty long hill that led us into the Gettysburg battlegrounds. There were some more rolling hills but the flat sections felt nice lol. I focused on the scenery – the fields, the monuments, anything to distract me lol. The weather started out overcast but eventually, it was sunny out. The humidity was very high but I was grateful that we avoided any rain. We also had some pretty strong headwinds, so go figure! I started walking up hills pretty early on and I found myself playing leapfrog with a few run/walkers for the majority of the race.

I knew this race would be a doozy from this point on!

11:45, 12:04, 11:36, 12:21, 12:24.

Miles 6-10

By the time I reached six miles, I was pretty miserable, but I had a few stretches where I actually felt good while running. Most of the race took place on narrow, open roads in the countryside. We were supposed to run on the left side but lots of people didn’t, and since there were out-and-back sections, sometimes you’d have people running right towards you, not to mention cars behind you. The cars weren’t too bad though, and I appreciated the volunteers who directed traffic and worked at the aid stations. They had bottles of water and Gatorade every few miles. I didn’t partake as my fueling routine was one of the few things that did work well! And another bright note was getting to see 2 fellow Bibrave Pros, Bill and Joe – they were running strong! I just felt like I was on an endless course, but I knew that at mile 7.5, my family would be there to cheer me on so I tried to pick myself up! Unfortunately, they weren’t there and I was bummed. I figured it was either logistically difficult for them to find me, or that Baby E was being a handful. It turns out Bret couldn’t find the map because the race website was still down!

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12:23, 12:38, 12:58, 13:00, 12:31.

Miles 11-13.1

I got a lot of encouragement from runners who passed me, and I really needed it and appreciated it lol. The run/walkers that I was near for most of the race eventually passed me for good. I had a few other people that I leap-frogged with, but it wasn’t the same. The last few miles are always the toughest for me, but I knew I had to do everything that I could to finish strong. I ran down the downhills as quickly as I could and when I got to the last mile, I really picked up the pace. I finally felt like the speedwork I had done in training paid off. There was no way I wasn’t going to finish strong and I was hoping that Bret and E would be able to see me flying – and they did! I was running so fast that my phone flew out of my vest, but thankfully one of the West Point guys that finished the race said he would hold it for me so I could keep going. Almost there, almost there…done!

My little girl seeing me run!

12:45, 12:59, 11:46, 8:05 (last 0.2).

Race Results

My official race results were 2:42:36.8. This is the slowest half marathon I’ve ever run, and the most I have had to walk through a race. The hills were much more challenging than anticipated, and I know I’m being hard on myself because this wasn’t the race that I trained for, I was originally going to be running a fast, flat half in Wilmington, Delaware. But it is what it is.

After the Race

Once I crossed the finish line it was so weird to not have someone place a medal over my head…duh! After going back to pick up my dropped cell phone, I had to go in line to separately pick up my medal, commemorative glass and a bag of food. Once I got that stuff and took a few pictures, I had to figure out the “pool situation”. I was given a key to the pool and with an achy body that ran for nearly 3 hours, I had to navigate a wet floor, trying not to really touch anything, shower without soap, and change clothes in a bathroom stall. Ugh. I was happy to get the hell out of there. We went to a brewery for lunch and went to see the rest of the Gettysburg sights before finally driving home to Philly. Mischief managed!

Takeaways

Despite the end result, I am proud of myself and glad that I made it to Gettysburg. Despite all the hiccups, I’m grateful that I was able to run an in-person race. We don’t have too many to choose from in my area!

Pros

  • Great race swag. The medal, finish shirt, and beer glass are all really nice!
  • A scenic, but challenging course. Running through the battlefield was a real highlight, but I enjoyed the farmland too!
  • Plenty of aid stations. The course was very well-supported, especially for marathoners who had to run the course twice! Everything was sealed in its own bottle.
  • Decent crowd support. I had low expectations but there was a decent amount of spectators throughout the course, which really made a difference for me!
  • Free race photos! Can’t beat that!

Cons

  • Poor communication. This is always a pet peeve of mine – one final race day message to participants seems like a no-brainer, especially when you’re dealing with these unprecedented times of COVID.
  • Not enough COVID precautions. While they did a lot of the right things, the start of the race was far too crowded for my liking. I think they had many more participants than they do in a typical year and some details slipped through the cracks. I’ll never be able to understand the debacle with the hotel.

Shoutouts

Thank you to everyone who has supported me on this journey! It has been a humbling experience returning to race training after having a baby. I worked very hard during this training cycle while also breastfeeding my little one and trying to balance all of the things lol. I do wish that my finish time reflected my effort, but you know I will keep showing up and continue to get stronger! Thank you Laura, for being the greatest coach, and thank you to Bret for supporting me as always! I think I’m ready for my next race!

What was the craziest experience you had when traveling for a race? Do you have any in-person races coming up this year?

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