Monday, July 18, 2016

mad half recap

Disclaimer: I received an entry into Mad Half Marathon to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to review, find, and write race reviews!

You can read the more brief review on BibRave here.

Celebrating the Mad Half Finish with beer and pizza.

My husband has wanted to visit Vermont for quite some time, for a special brewery that has very limited distribution, and nothing in the Midwest, but couldn't justify making the trip for only that. After he mentioned it to me recently, a few weeks later BibRave had the opportunity to race in Vermont at the Mad Marathon/Mad Half. He was actually off the weekend of the race, so I brought it up to him and he was pumped. It was super exciting when I was chosen as one of the three Pros that were able to run the race.

Mad Half Course Map.


I had debated between the marathon and half for a while, and ended up going with the half because I'm not a great summer runner and I wanted to make sure that I was able to finish the race and get the full experience (rather than attempt the full and be taken off course for being too slow). Typical summer weather there, I saw on the website, was a 'cool and breezy Vermont summer, in the 80s'. No thanks. I was glad I decided on the half, as someone mentioned to me later that there were a ton of hills on course. Of course I could have seen that if I looked at the course map/elevation, but I hadn't. Living in the Midwest where it's pretty flat, and a course elevation of 300 ft gained is a lot to me, I knew I made the right choice.

We arrived at our B&B (West Hill House) in Warren on Thursday later afternoon. It was about 15 minutes from the race events. The festivities began on Friday, with packet pickup from 4–7pm behind the Waitsfield Inn and then a concert on the Mad River Green at 7pm. We ran out of time, so didn't make it on Friday.

Mad Marathon Packet Pickup.

Saturday, packet pickup was from 9am – 6pm behind Waitsfield Inn. We got there around 10 I think. Pickup was very laid back, which was a telling of what the race weekend would be like. You looked up your number on the board – half marathoners on one side, marathoners on the other, with runners listed alphabetically. You then went to the proper bib side (again, marathon and half split), went to the 'line' (there wasn't one) with your number in it (ie 1–100, 101–200, etc). I received my bib, safety pins, race booklet with race information, and a blue drawstring bag with the Mad Marathon logo in white. It even had zippered front pocket on it - fancy. 

Farmers Market.

I was ready to leave when my husband was wondering about shirts. I saw them lined up by size on the other side of the tent, but it wasn't mentioned, so I asked the guy at the table and he said to go over and grab one. Whoa. I'm so used to it being given to you with your bib, or at another station, but it being very particular, as in: this is the size you ordered, if it doesn't fit, go over to the exchange table. Again - super laid back atmosphere and it was very refreshing. The size I had requested was the proper size, too, so that worked out well. The ladies were a mint green and the men's were a dark green (a little lighter than forest, I would say). They were also selling shirts from 2015 for $5, so we each bought one of those too. How do you pass up a tech shirt for that price?!

I also asked about parking, as it seemed there were about 1,000 registrants, but not a ton of parking in the area. They looked at me like I was crazy when I asked if there would be someone directing traffic. I guess I'm just so used to the big city races, and either having to pay $20 to park in a lot, or being worried about being ticketed or towed for parking where I shouldn't be. Here, you were allowed to park just about anywhere but the grass and the Inns lot (for guests only). Other stores don't mind if you park in their lot for 5 hours here... how strange and different ;) The one volunteer mentioned getting there early to get parking, and I asked if 6am was early enough. The other volunteer laughed and said she was running and planned on getting there at 6:45... so I guess early is all relative.

The race director Dori was in a meeting when we were there, so we crossed the street to the Mad River Green for the farmers market. We bought some honey and maple syrup to bring home. We also bought a soda made from syrup. It was really good, and we taste tested some cheeses. Yum. I wanted a photo by the Mad Marathon sign over where we had driven in, so we did that, and then went back over hoping Dori was out of her meeting. She was, and I got my post-race hug early (from what I heard, she hugs all runners when they cross the finish line). She was very nice and introduced me to a Mad Marathon 'hall of famer', who had also ran across the US last year. How cool! She obviously was busy with race things, so I didn't want to take up too much of her time, so we parted ways. 

I overheard her say that the parents of the kids' race participants were worried about the weather and wanted the kids race cancelled, so it was early one, even though she had wanted to wait to see what weather was at 'race' time. I believe the band was cancelled too, due to storms, but I wasn't there at that time so can't say for sure.

It started raining right when we were getting ready to leave, so good timing. We went back to the B&B, played some board games outside on the covered porch while it rained, watched Indiana Jones, took a relaxing jacuzzi bath, and then it was time for Mad Carbo! Our B&B made us a pasta dinner at 6 — angel hair pasta and marinara sauce, along with a salad with lots of veggie options. A lot of the guests staying there were doing the race – two with the full, and then four of us doing the half. I felt a little bad for our hosts, as all of the other couples seemed to have some time of special dietary needs... so every morning she had to prepare different types of food to fit them. It was really cool getting to meet other runners and hear their experiences. Luckily, they were all staying Sunday night too, so we saw them Monday morning to hear how their races went. It was fun knowing a few more people running that I could look for and cheer on. 

Pasta dinner & a note Susan gave us the morning of the race —
giving us more sleep.  How cute.

After a filling meal, we all headed to our rooms to prepare for race day and get to bed. I showered, laid out all my gear for my flat runner, and packed my bag of running gear and a shirt to change into post-race. I don't sleep well race nights. I was in bed around 9, was watching a movie on my iPad, and tried to go to sleep at 10. I was up constantly to go to the bathroom and was tossing and turning. 5 am came too soon, as usual.

Flat Heather

Our B&B had an early breakfast for us (again, I felt bad they had to be up so early with us for a 5am breakfast) - bananas, plain bagels, cream cheese, juices, veggies, meats, etc. I assumed it was buffet style, and since I don't eat much anyway, I stayed upstairs to get ready before heading down around 5:30. Everyone was sitting at the table chatting and eating, and then I felt bad I wasn't there on time. I forced down a plain bagel and split a banana with my husband, and drank some water. We all wished each other luck and went back to our rooms to finish preparing. We left around 6ish and arrived about 6:15. We were able to get one of the last spots in the same parking lot we had used the day before, phew. It was raining when we left, and so we both debated if we should wear our long sleeves/rain coats to stay warm before the race while we were standing outside.

Fun to see Kathleen and Tom – both Chicagoland pals.

Around 6:30 we went to the portapotty line. One long line for about 10–15 bathrooms. It moved quickly. While in line I was able to quickly chat with fellow Pro Brenda, but then she also had to get in the line. I also found my friend Kathleen and chatted with her pre-race. She was there with Chelsea, who I had interacted with online, but hadn't met in person yet. We walked over to the start line around 6:55 or so. Took some photos, then they moved up a bit. I like to start more towards the end, so I can take my walk breaks sooner (when it's super crowded, I try to run longer until I feel like there's enough space to take walk breaks and it's easy enough for others to pass). Crazily enough, I ended up next to Jennifer, a social media friend. She recognized me and said hello, and we talked for a quick minute. I also found BibRave Pro Tom briefly before the race. We had a quick chat and photo, and then it was race time. It was great to see so many familiar faces so far from home!

The race started at 7am (maybe I should mention it was Sunday, July 10). No corrals or waves, as it was a small enough race it didn't need one. The streets were wide enough to allow the crowding to dissipate around the half mile mark. It started with a small downhill, a right turn, over a bridge, and then hills. Lots and lots of hills. I had talked through a strategy with my Sweat Tracker coach, and the plan was to walk up and run down, rather than attempt intervals on the hills. That worked out well, even though it sometimes meant walking for 5 minutes. We were able to make up time on the downhills, at least.

Towards the start of the race.

There were plenty of aid stations, with both water and gatorade, as well as a portapotty with each one. Some of the community came out to cheer, which was really sweet. I think even one or two of the aid stations weren't official aid stations, but sweet families from the area. I received a lot of compliments on my Sparkle Athletic skirt, too :) A few kids cheering made my day when they told me they liked it. Super cute.

The husband drank too much coffee in the morning and stopped at just about every bathroom along the way. Luckily, he's quick (he was nice enough to run with me for the race), so I would keep going and he'd catch up. There were a few out and backs where you got to cheer on other runners, and it was cool to high-five Kathleen as she ran by, and to see Tom and the runners from the B&B. It made time go by quickly, too. 

The course was clearly marked with signs and mile markers.

Some funny signs. The one on the bottom is blurry,
but said 'Secret Shortcut' with an arrow.

More signs marking where to go. Also plenty of volunteers/course marshals
on course to help point runners in the right direction.

At one point we were coming up to what looked like a massive hill, and as I pointed it out to the husband, a guy behind me said, 'you don't see a hill. It's not really there.' That made me laugh. It ended up not feeling as bad as what it looked like from afar, so that was good.

I mean, that looks like a massive hill coming up, right?! EEKS.

Having a great time!

I took a ton of photos, as it was so beautiful. There were only two spots that were super smelly - one farm with manure, and one spot that smelled of dead fish. I used my BUFF to cover my noes so I could breathe through those spots. The one time I asked my husband if it was gone and he said yes, so I took it off my face, but he was lying. Ugh. Haha.

There was the option for a beer or water stop around mile 11 (14th Star Brewing Co Wheat Beer). We chose beer. The two guys there were awesome and told us that we just had to stay within their taped area. We split one – I took a few sips out of the cup and then gave the rest to the husband, took off while telling him to catch up. I didn't want to waste toooo much time. Haha. As if stopping for other photos didn't, anyway.

If you know me at at all, you know I went to the right.
I would only have passed it up if it wasn't good beer ;)

It was around this time that I noticed we might be able to make a 3 hour finish time. I decided to try and give it all I could to meet that new goal. Instead of run/walking, I ran as much as I could. I took 3 breaks to catch my breath (1 was to walk up the final hill on course). It started downpouring at mile 12, but it felt so good I didn't mind. I was pretty much drenched in sweat anyway, so it's not like my clothes weren't already wet. The last part was running back the way it hard started, so it was over the bridge, turning the corner, and up the hill. At the corner, the street was only blocked off by cones at the shoulder so cars could drive normally in the lanes. Instead of running in the small area, I just hopped up on the sidewalk until the area near the finish where it was blocked off again to traffic. 

Tom and I at the finish

We ended up just over 3 hours, so in a small way I was disappointed, but also seeing as my main goal in my head was 3:15, I was very happy. I never expected to do that well with the hills. I'll be honest, I had talked those hills up in my head so much, that I was expecting the worst. And so, they weren't nearly as bad as I had imagined, which made the course even better. My problem is when I don't know there are hills, then I'm surprised and I find the race to be so difficult, but expecting to have a really hard time with huge a$$ hills, I managed to do better than I thought I would. Funny how that can work sometimes. Obviously, still a very challenging course with the half having a little over 1200 feet of elevation gain, but for me, 'easier' than expected.

The finish area.

Enjoying my post-race beer.

A photo with Dori the RD.

At the finish, I got my Dori hug, a medal, and then went to grab some food. They had cider, donuts, chips, bananas, bagels, and water. They also had a blow up pool with rubber duckies for runners to cool down in, though it didn't really seem needed this year. Weather was in the 50–60s, overcast, sometimes drizzly until the end where it poured, and overcast (loved that) with 95% humidity. Being soaked, I was then cold, so grabbed a heat sheet. Eventually, we found out the beer was across the street where pickup was. They had 14th Star Brewing Co Valor (a hoppy beer), and then some other options if you wanted to pay $5. There were also some pretzels, chips, and salsa. AND an adorable, sweet 2-year old boxer.

The finish line. They did a great job of making sure it wasn't too muddy or slippy.


After drinking the beer, we headed to the car to change into some dry clothes, then back to the finish line to cheer on the other runners. I got a photo with Dori, and a little while later I was starving so we left to get some food. We went to Bluestone Pizza, had some beer, and a delicious pizza. Then went back to the B&B to shower and warm up. We began the packing process, then went to dinner at Mad Taco. More beers were consumed along with more delicious food (seriously, I want to move there - amazing craft beer scene and such great food everywhere!). We walked across the street to grab beers to bring home, but what the hubs wanted wasn't in stock. Womp womp. Walking back over, we saw a Creemee place open, so grabbed some sundae cones. They were amazing! One of them had 'maple floss' on it - not even knowing what it was. Turned out, it was similar to cotton candy, but made with maple. Yum. Mine had brownies, chocolate creemee, spiced chocolate dip, and salted caramel in a waffle cone. Oh yeah.

Wearing my BibRave sweatshirt to keep me warm.
Usually post-race photo with my medal.

This race was so fantastic. I really hope I can fit it in the budget and schedule next year. I'd love to try and challenge myself even more with the full marathon next time.

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