In early March, with a little over a month to go to my goal race - the Vienna City Marathon - it was time to look for a quality tune-up race. Travel to a conference in Canada the second week of March meant I would miss two of the most popular half marathon races in the area: Shamrock in VA Beach and Rock 'n' Roll in Washington, DC. Fortunately, two of my teammates at Falls Road Racing independently recommended a nearby alternative: the Caesar Rodney Half Marathon in Wilmington, DE. Turns out that this race had just been nominated by "Runner's World" as one of the best half marathons in the country. That, and the fact that entry fees were very reasonable, had me convinced and I soon signed up.
A few weeks later race day rolled in, and I embarked on my trip to Delaware. Unfortunately, it was a solo effort this time since most of my teammates had already raced the week prior. Matters not since the drive was pleasant enough, accompanied a mix of classical and electronic music. To my excitement, free race parking was right off the I-95 exit ramp, just a few blocks away from the start line. I got my gear together and walked over. Again I was surprised, this time by the lack of lines by the restrooms. Thus, I had plenty of time to start my warm-up, consisting of 2 miles of light jogging, toe walking, heel walking, spring jogging, skipping and strides. At the start, I eyed the competition and noted a handful of fast looking runners. After the national anthem - an excellent performance - we were off!
The course can be best described as a flat first half, and uphill second. And so when we started out with a 5:20 first mile I wasn't especially worried. No point in holding back on the downhill. The second mile took us into the baseball stadium area, where just a few months prior I had run the Delaware Distance Classic, then to the Christina River riverside walk. Here the wind picked up but since the field had already thinned out significantly, there was no one to draft off. Next, we looped back to the start area, and after mile 6 our climb began. It was along Park Drive, inside the Wilmington State Park, which made it easy on the eyes but hard on the legs. We continued to gain up until mile 9, and kept the high ground for another 2 miles, before dipping down towards the finish. This was along the same route as before, and so I saw many of the slower runners coming towards me, working to best the uphill. Their cheering and the fact that it was such a smooth angle that did not require much breaking, felt truly uplifting and I was able to effortlessly roll down the hill. The finish however was another story: a quarter mile hard uphill to right before the finish chute. By this time I was all alone, with 4th place half a minute ahead, and no one behind me. Thus, I went on to finish 5th overall in a new personal best of 1:14:22, 6 minutes off my most recent half marathon from September 2013 in VA Beach.
The post-race was just as well organized as the rest of the race, with your typical spread of bagels, bananas, coffee, bars and even pizza (which I respectfully declined, its value in recovery still lacking scientific evidence). I had also prepared ahead by bringing a serving of Hammer's Recoverite. After a light cool-down jog I stood around enjoying the festivities for a little while, then picked-up my award and made my way back home.
While not necessarily a PR course, the Caesar Rodney Half is a fun, challenging, superbly organized race in the Mid-Atlantic area. I may very well be back next year to tune-up for my 2015 spring goal marathon.
|Sporting my Hammer race kit and the age group award plaque!|