Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Scoutin' Routes: Shoreline Half Mararthon

Official Shoreline Half-Marathon route with unofficial pics below. (7/14/15)
This Saturday, I will be following Sunday's Utica Boilermaker 15k by competing in the Shoreline Half Marathon. As I have not run this race before (and this year's race actually features a different course from year's past), I took advantage of today's beautiful weather to scout the route as best I could. The course runs the length of Hamlin Beach State Park, located on the shore of Lake Ontario, approximately 20-30 minutes from our home near downtown Rochester.

My difficulties following maps is well-documented, but at the very least I was able to get a sense of the courses longer segments, as well as the very slight variations in elevation. I am extremely confident that our friends at Yellowjacket Racing will have the course very well marked, so my trip was primarily for my own visualization purposes. I used the map provided via link at the race site and only had difficulty pinpointing a few locations, most notably the exact start and finish, due primarily to my lack of familiarity with the specifics of that portion of the park. This is by no means an official map, but rather my effort to prepare mentally for the run on Saturday.

My initial impressions (I walked rather than ran portions that were not accessible by car) of the course was that while it appears fairly flat and therefore potentially "fast," the weather will be an important contributing factor to its level of challenge. At least 85% of the course runs in such a way that the participant is fully exposed to the elements. (The roads are also where the "steep" changes are; if anything think of them as lazily rolling hills except for one or two spots.) The start time is a 8 a.m., so even if it is sunny and humid, the sun should be at angle that is not too overbearing. Personally, it would be a nice day for it to be cloudy and cool.

1. The starting line... well the general vicinity. (7/13/15)
2. About 3/4 of a mile a u-turn will have the opportunity to 
watch the early leaders. (7/13/15)
3. Following the u-turn the first of many long straight-a-ways. (7/13/15)
4. At about 3.3 miles, a turn right guides one out of the park. (7/13/15)
5. Exiting the park entrance where you drove in--FYI there is a $7 fee to 
enter. (7/13/15)
6. Course goes under the Ontario Beach Parkway. (7/13/15)
7. Both the 3 mile mark leaving the park and the 11 mile point upon the return;
the majority of the course is on paved roads outside
Hamlin Beach State Park. (7/13/15)
8. Right onto Moscow Road for 8 miles of four "straight-shots": 
as seen on the map pretty much a box (however deflated 
on the upper-right hand side). (7/13/15)
9. Left turn at Redman Road, also the 4 mile point of the race. (7/13/15)
10. Halfway down the Redman portion is the 5 mile mark. (7/13/15)
11. Just before the right turn onto Church Road, you pass the 6 mile mark--
nearly half way done! (7/13/15)
12. Guess what?Another right, this one onto Lake Road West Fork, 
also the 8 mile point. (7/13/15)
13. Here's that deflation: at mile 9 the course heads over a bridge followed
 immediately by a sharp left onto Priem Road. (7/13/15)
14. Past a cornfield on the right, the road appears to get wiggly! (7/13/15)
15. But is straightens right out and you then pass the 10 mile point about
500m from the next turn.  (7/13/15)
16. The last road-left back onto Moscow Road. (7/13/15)
17. After 8 miles on public roads it's time to turn right back into
the park. (7/13/15)

So where is picture #18? It looks pretty much (okay, exactly!) like #7! I am not a fan of courses wherein you can potentially run into those who are way ahead of you (like a switchback), but I can't imagine anyone being caught in that trap given the 8 mile differential.

19. After passing back into the park at the first roundabout--or traffic
 circle-- veer right off the main road. The remainder of this course is
"off-road." (7/13/15)
20. The impending u-turn creates the "opportunity" to see those ahead--and
 behind--as the race moves into the last mile! (7/13/15)
21. In the last mile, the course truly does run along the shoreline. (7/13/15)
22. Twelve miles down... nearly done! (7/13/15)
23. Because this last mile of the course runs along the shore of Lake Ontario, 
after miles of country roads the potential exists for some interesting 
views. (7/13/15)
24. Over the bridge... (7/13/15)
25. ...and along walking paved paths... (7/13/15)
26a. ...pass the bathhouse on the left... (7/13/15)
26b. ...and less than half-a-mile to go! (7/13/15)
27. Some final shaded pathway. (7/13/15)
28. The finish is around here somewhere! (7/13/15)
The Shoreline Half-Marathon course appears fairly conducive to a nice run, so those things that the race coordinators can control  have been addressed nicely. One very nice aspect is that there are many places for family and friends to cheer from multiple vantage points within the park that are easily accessible. Any concerns one might have about running the course would likely be limited to the long roads which may have traffic with speed limits between 35-55 miles-per-hour. (The race website does clarify that "Runners will run facing traffic at all times while outside of the park.") I have never been one to plug-in by wearing earbuds while running, but I would definitely avoid it on this course--there is not much traffic, but what is there can be fast. Even when running against the traffic, once you are "in a zone" (especially during later miles) one's awareness can be slightly dulled and, in this case, music might be an unnecessary focus-point and therefore a distraction.

I am looking very forward to Saturday morning's run. Courses such as this make it easy to understand the attraction of the half-marathon distance: while physically and mentally taxing, the length of the distance once achieved can't but provide a sense of accomplishment. As long as one stays hydrated (once again the race organizer's have accounted for this with "Water stops will be every 2 miles with water and Fluid electrolyte drink 1 gel station will be on course at 8 miles"), all potentially problematic variables regarding the course have been addressed; it's all up to one's fitness level now!

Good luck this weekend wherever your run takes you!

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