A “New” Garmin Record

Simon is dead; long live Simon Mark II.

(For those of you new to my blog, or for those of you who may have forgotten, since it’s been so dang long since I’ve written about him, Simon is what I call my Garmin Forerunner.)

My beloved first running watch kicked the bucket last year. It was a slow death… taking longer and longer to connect to GPS, deciding he didn’t want to save the occasional run, acting erratically.

The final straw came at the QEOP10K last September, when I ran my first international race and was excited to have my run saved in Garmin Connect for posterity, only to have Simon basically give me a two-fingered salute after I crossed the finish line, crapping out without saving anything. Oh well.

I found a replacement – a bigger, shinier, fancier Forerunner 230 – on Groupon Goods a few months after The Bairn arrived, and have been wearing it on my very occasional runs.

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It turns out the timing for a new watch ended up being pretty perfect.

I feel like I’m almost starting over with my running post-Bairn. I didn’t run at all between said QEOP10K last September and the end of May, and since then have been getting used to a body that’s a bit different since pregnancy and childbirth, on top of getting my running groove back.

Last Sunday I ran a mile for the first time in who knows how long. That is, a mile without needing a walk break. It was awesome. It was a gorgeous fall morning, and I set out on a new-to-me route with the intention of just taking it easy and seeing how I felt. I made it a quarter-mile and felt good, so I decided to try for a half-mile. Made it to that no problem, and thought “what the heck?” I made it a full mile, walked a half-mile, ran another quarter-mile, then walked the last .25 for a nice, even 2 mile excursion.

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Now, hitting that mile felt like a huge accomplishment in itself, but as a bonus, Simon Mark II gave me a fanfare at the end of my run because I had run my “fastest mile.” At first I was a bit dumbfounded, thinking back to the glorious day when I ran my current fastest mile, but then remembered that I was wearing a whole new watch, with no memory of my blazing record.

As I work my way oh-so-slowly back to running regularly and rebuilding my base, having little moments of fanfare with digital bling makes the whole thing so much more exciting and motivating. Old Simon wouldn’t have given me any fanfare for running an 11:18 mile, and that’s totally okay. But the bonus props from New Simon gives me a little mental push to keep working at beating my new PR. And there’ll be “new” records to break too – longest run, fastest 5K, etc. It’s like having a clean running slate, and I think that’s just what I need right now.

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Taking This New Body for a Test Drive

It finally happened: I went for a run! *confetti cannons and muppet flails* 

Today, for the first time since the QEOP 10K in early September – and not counting the ~20-foot jog I did in jeans to see what it felt like to run with the jogging stroller – I actually ran. I am so chuffed right now. 

It wasn’t pretty by any means, but it was running(ish):

4.91 miles, most of which was walking. I ran a total of just over 1 of those miles, in between ~1 mile warm-up and cool-down walks. It was glorious to cruise around the pond and lagoon again, and even my giant red face throbbing in the sun felt glorious. A bit. 

The lagoon


I made it just over a half-mile of my first bit of running before I had to take a walk break, which wasn’t too bad. The running felt great, but then less so during each running stint. I am so very out of shape, and I could feel weakness/tiredness in pretty much my whole right side – foot, leg, shoulder. Something to work on… one of these days!

In honor of my jubilant mood, how about a wee indulgent thanks-to-the-academy speech?

Thank you Target, for having a sale on your already pretty reasonable activewear, so I could get some running kit that actually fits. 

Thank you Lanisoh nursing pads, for keeping my new running kit free of any lurking milk. 
Thank you Legend Compression Wear, for providing socks that prevented soreness and fatigue in my calves. I was worried my shins would want to split away from the rest of my legs as a protest, but they behaved themselves nicely. 

Thank you Groupon, for selling fancy new Garmins at a slightly more affordable price. Simon is dead; long live Simon II.

Thank you MapMyRun, for stepping up in the awkward time between when Simon died and Simon II wasn’t charged enough to use yet.

Thank you Mother Nature, for giving me a lovely day in the low 60s for my return to running. 

Thank you Drew, for urging me out the door to run while you wrangled the screaming Bairn. I needed this run badly, and you knew it. I appreciate that more than you know. 

Thank you body, for being awesome. Yes, you’re a size or two bigger now and things are still a little out of whack and disconcertingly jiggly from carrying and delivering the Bairn, but you still know what to do. You can still pound the pavement and clear my head and make me feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally, and that rocks. I look forward to doing this with you again, hopefully soon!

C’mon legs, let’s run.

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park 10K, 3 September 2016

What: 10K

Where: London, UK (course map*) aka, my first international race!

*This wasn’t the exact course we ended up running, due to another event being set up for later in the day. We ended up going down by the stadium on the “Old River Path” a few times.

Who: Just me, with moral support from Drew

Time: 1:17:49

Splits: none, because Simon failed me, losing all memory of the race as soon as I paused him at the end. Boo.

Note: This recap is way overdue. Please see my last post for excuses!

Background

You may be asking, “What the heck were you doing running a race this far afield? London??” That is a good question, observant reader(s). A few days prior to this race, I was attending a conference for work in Wembley…

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Quick pause for a Wembley Stadium selfie!

Having attempted to run an international race a few years back but being thwarted by a race cancellation, I really wanted to fit one in this time around. However, I didn’t want to take over an entire day of sightseeing or what-have-you just so I could get some foreign bling, plus I wasn’t sure how ever-more-pregnant me would handle a 10K. I figured I’d see how Beach 2 Beacon went, and would decide then. Since B2B went quite well, and with Drew’s supportive “you never know when you’ll get another chance to run a race in London… go for it” in my head, I searched for races and landed on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park 10km Series.

The race sounded pretty cool – running around a park where Olympians roamed four years ago?? – and came with bling and a goody bag, so I was won over pretty easily. I signed up, found a hotel close to the Overground which would allow for easy transit to the race, and eagerly awaited the big day.

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A view of (part of) Olympic Park

Pre-race

After I carboloaded with some tasty ramen the night before, race day dawned not-so-bright and early. I was pleased with the overcast sky that looked like it would spit rain at any moment… at home it was still in the high 80s and I had been looking forward to cool race weather!

Drew and I hopped on the Overground and made our way to Hackney Wick, then strolled to and through Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. We had stayed nearby a few years ago, when the park was still at the early stages of reconstruction, so it was fun to see all the work that had been done since. We had the ArcelorMittal Orbit (the weird reddish tower in the above photo) as a homing beacon, and it led us to the race start area and packet pickup. Pickup was super easy and quick, and I spent the rest of pre-race time trying to both stay warm and poke my own pin holes through the bib, which didn’t come with any pre-made.

After a very half-hearted warmup on my part, a man with a megaphone (who shall henceforth be referred to as Megaphone Man) started strolling through the crowd of runners, reminding us all to double-knot our laces and treating us to witty banter in a Cockney accent. He then led us all in a group warm-up:

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(Note the not-so-overcast sky in those pictures… I was beginning to regret not bringing a hat or sunglasses at this point.)

After some butt-kicks and jumping jacks and sky punches, we made our way over to the 2012 Walk, where the start/finish line was. It was nice and shaded, and looked charming, and I had hope in my heart that it would be a lovely race:

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The start from Drew’s point of view…

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…and from my point of view at the back

The race

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Drew caught a picture of a bunch of charity runners dressed as monkeys

I wanted so badly to take off with most of the rest of the pack when the starting gun went, but I forced myself to hang back and take it easy. Though B2B had gone well, a month had passed since that race, and I was now carrying more baby weight and was unsure of how my body would handle running 10k.

The first little portion of the race was decent – down the shady flat path, marveling at the fact that I was actually running a race in another country – and both Drew and the race photographer caught me looking chuffed to be running:

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Photo: Drew

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Photo: Basil Thornton

Not long after those smiley pictures, however, things went downhill. It was hot. And sunny. I was thoroughly unprepared for hot and sunny. I hadn’t hydrated enough (surprise!), hadn’t brought water like almost everyone else had, and hadn’t brought sunglasses or a hat, so I was squinty and worried about sunburn. Plus, I was really feeling the extra baby weight. Things were more jiggly and, as a result, quite sore, and I also got out of breath very quickly. I had to stop to walk before the first mile clicked by.

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Stopping to walk meant I could take pictures!

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And then I started to run so I could take a running selfie. I was all ready to be done!

The course was mostly exposed to direct sun, so I was hot and red and sweaty and unhappy pretty quickly. There were also more hills than expected; the race description mentioned “slight undulations” but we had to scale some steep ramps to get onto bridges, and our detour included more hills than the usual route. I walked a lot, more than usual (with my midwife’s “listen to your body, stop whenever you get any pain” echoing in my head), and found myself soon getting lapped by the lead runners.

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About to get lapped by fast people

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Trying to muster a smile for Drew

Right after the above picture was taken, the course took us past a huge crowd of cheering people. Drew later told me that Megaphone Man had rallied a bunch of random passersby together so that we could have a cheering section! That was a fun little surprise.

The first water stop wasn’t too long after, and I savored my drink as I took a slow walk break in the shade. I had two laps to go, and I was mentally and physically done already. I strongly considered stopping, since I knew Drew was close by, but then I thought of the finisher’s medal and how I didn’t want to have my first international race also be my first DNF. So I soldiered on.

I started to hate the scenery. Three laps of the same thing gets very old when you no longer want to be running, no matter where you are. I kept taking frequent walk breaks, pausing every now and then to shove a Percy Pig – my chosen fuel – in my gob. (While tasty, those little suckers are hard to chew while walking, let alone running! I missed my Honey Stingers.)

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Struggling up a hill on the last lap

Two of the course marshals helped me carry on – one saw me struggling during the first lap and yelled out encouragement, then remembered me on subsequent laps and kept saying awesome things to me. The other saw the Shamrock on my singlet and said things as I struggled past, but her Irish accent was so thick I couldn’t make out her words! They sounded friendly though, and I like to think she was looking out for me especially because of the Shamrock. Seeing Drew at the end of each lap was a huge help too!

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Struggling up the last hill!

I can’t even express how happy I was to crest that final hill, knowing the finish line was close! I considered trying for a sprint finish, but the worrywart in the back of my head didn’t want to overdo it.

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Nearing the finish!

And then Megaphone Man appeared. I was a little ways behind the lady in front of me, and as he saw the two of us approaching, he started yelling that we should “make it a race!” and have a photo finish. The other lady had earbuds in and didn’t speed up at all, despite his goading her:

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Megaphoning into her ear

So he turned his megaphone on me and started shouting encouragement, urging me to beat the lady in red. So I thought, what the heck? I enjoy the first picture in this next series (all courtesy of Basil Thornton), because you can see the exact moment I tried to kick it up a notch – arms flailing and goofy look on my face:

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Clearly I didn’t beat the lady in red (she was going just a little too fast for me to catch up, though I did get close!), but I did manage to remember what Megaphone Man told us all we had to do at the finish – put our hands up. He joked that results wouldn’t count if our hands weren’t up, and that made looking through the race photos pretty fun – almost everyone has their hands up!

I made a bee-line for the water table, sucked down a couple cups’ worth (I was one of the last finishers, so didn’t think taking multiple cups was bad), and then stumbled off to get my goody bag and bling.

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So red, so sweaty, so tired… so happy to be done

I then made Drew hang out for a bit so I could hop up on the podium they had set up. Clearly I hadn’t won anything, but other people were leaping up for photo opportunities and I decided it would probably be the only time I’d have a podium picture, so darnit, I was going to make it happen:

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I can almost safely say that I was indeed the first place preggers American!

Mission accomplished, we set off for Stratford tube station, making a quick stop at Marks and Spencers so I could get some food to refuel (the recovery drink in the goody bag had sucralose in it – boo!). I got some interesting looks as I stood in the corner of the mall between M&S and the tube station, sweaty and wearing tiny shorts while pounding a milky coffee beverage and shoving chocolate in my face, but whatever – I had just finished my first international race despite really wanting to DNF, and was enjoying my runner’s high.

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Bling

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Goody bag contents

In the end, I’m so happy I opted to run a race while in London, even if I had been cursing myself while running the thing. I may have finished 313th out of 327 runners (91st out of 99 ladies), but I finished! And, once the runner’s high kicked in and my body forgot about the pain and exhaustion, I realized I’d even had a bit of fun too. It was a cool experience to run through an Olympic park, let alone experiencing an international race for the first time, and it will be fun to tell my wee running buddy about it someday πŸ™‚

Mill Cities Relay, 7 December 2014

What: Relay race; “27 miles, 5 legs, 2 states, 1 river”

Where: Nashua, NH; Hudson, NH; Tyngsboro, MA; Lowell, MA; Dracut, MA; Methuen, MA; Lawrence, MA

Who: Team Wintry Mix! (aka 4 Shammies and me, plus our injured teammate/cheerleader) and a bunch of other Shammies teams, along with many other teams from the Mill Cities Alliance

Leg: first (5.4 miles; course map)

Time: 55:48 (10:18 average pace)

Splits (according to Simon):
-Mile 1: 9:26
-Mile 2: 10:13
-Mile 3: 10:51
-Mile 4: 10:34
-Mile 5: 10:22
-Mile 5.4: 4:22

Photos: (click to open larger versions)

Team Wintry Mix hanging out in the warmth before the start of the first leg

Team Wintry Mix hanging out in the warmth before the start of the first leg

So happy to see my teammates at the end of Leg 1!

So happy to see my teammates at the end of Leg 1!

"Oh God, please, someone just take this baton from me."

“Oh God, please, someone just take this baton from me.”

One of my teammates being silly before the baton handover between legs 3 and 4. You can almost see me wrapped in a gray blanket on the right edge of the photo

One of my teammates being silly before the baton exchange between legs 3 and 4. You can almost see me wrapped in a gray blanket on the right edge of the photo

All the Shammies (at least the ones who took part in the relay) at the post-race celebration

All the Shammies (at least the ones who took part in the relay) at the post-race celebration

Recap: The Mill Cities Relay is a big deal for my running club. Almost every Shammie runs it and the club pays everyone’s registration fees. It’s a friendly competition among the run clubs in the Mill Cities Alliance, and ends with a big party at the Claddagh Pub in Lawrence for pasta, salad, bread, cookies, beer, live music, and lots of good times. Since I first joined the club I’ve been hearing my fellow Shammies talking about it, but actually taking part in a relay never crossed my mind… I felt like I’d just slow my team down, so what team would want me?

As it turns out, Team Wintry Mix wanted me. Little did I know that one of the team members got injured running a marathon, so they were one runner short. I found all this out at the Shammies Banquet/Awards Night, which was held last Friday. I showed up, innocently expecting to have some food, enjoy an adult beverage, and sit in a corner true to my socially awkward self until friendly and outgoing Shammies made their way over to me. One such was Kristen, a relatively new Shammie who I met at one of the fun runs back in August. Turns out she was on Team Wintry Mix, and set her sights on me as their injured teammate’s replacement. She even introduced the rest of her team to me to try to peer-pressure coerce make me feel welcome to join. While I liked the idea of Shammie bonding, the 6:45am meetup time and the cold forecast gave me pause. As I’m sure you can assume, I finally caved to peer-pressure and joined Team Wintry Mix… but only after they reassured me about 100 times that it didn’t matter how slow I run!

Two days later I was up at the crack of dawn, squeezing myself into multiple layers, and trundling off in the dark to the meetup spot with my bags of blankets and snacks. My team piled into a car and off we set for New Hampshire. On the way up, relay veterans filled us newbies in on what was about to go down:

  • The Mill Cities Relay consists of 5 legs, covering a total of roughly 27 miles.
  • Leg 1 = 5.4 miles, Leg 2 = 4.75 miles, Leg 3 = 2.5 miles, Leg 4 = 9 miles, Leg 5 = 4.75 miles.
  • Each team is made up of 5 runners, and each runner can run only one leg.
  • The “baton” is actually a slap bracelet, which is nice because you can wear it instead of having to hold it while you run.
  • While one teammate is running her leg, the others pile into the car and drive to the next exchange point, where they stand wrapped in blankets until the exchange takes place. Then they hop in the car and drive to the next exchange point. Sometimes they stop at Dunkies for warm beverages.

I was so nervous during that car ride up to New Hampshire! My team was made up of the nicest, most awesome ladies ever – and that really helped! – but I still couldn’t shake the feeling that my slowness would hold everyone back. I was also nervous about running the second longest leg since I hadn’t run more than 3 miles since my half; I secretly wished to be running the 2.5-mile leg, but all the legs had been decided before I joined and I didn’t want to be princessy and demanding. Kristen offered to trade me for Leg 5, which was slightly shorter and would have all the excitement of the finish line, but I decided to suck it up and just run my 5.4 miles. Plus, running the first leg would get my part out of the way, so I could spend the rest of the race cheering on my team without worrying about hydrating, porta-potties, or anything else I tend to fret about before races.

The starting line was at a school in Nashua, New Hampshire. My team took advantage of the indoor bathrooms, snapped a few pre-race pictures, and then left me in the capable hands of fellow Shammie first-leggers. One lady promised to run “slowly” since she hadn’t been running much lately, so I decided to stick with her for as long as possible; I knew that “slow” to her was probably “way too fast” to me. I was right. I managed to stay with her for maybe the first half-mile, running at a pace between 7:30 and 9:00 according to Simon. I warned her that I’d probably fade back pretty quickly and that she should just carry on without me, and that’s exactly what happened. I watched her disappear into the horizon as I tried to find my pace, heartened slightly by the fact that there were at least a handful of runners still way behind me.

Looking back at my Garmin data, I tackled my leg pretty valiantly considering I didn’t train for this race at all:

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You can see that I started fast and gradually got slower before more or less leveling out. I took 6 walk breaks (the sharp valleys; the one other valley was when I had to wait at a stoplight that wasn’t policed by a cop or race marshal) and the sudden spikes are, I’m guessing, where I sped up to cross the street as cops held traffic for me. The last big spike (7:16 pace!) is when I turned the last corner and heard “Shamrocks! 192!” through the bullhorn as the PA man announced my club and team number to warn my waiting teammate to prepare for the baton exchange.

I was so excited when I saw my teammates and heard them all cheering my name, knowing that I was done with my piece of the race. I handed the baton/bracelet off to my Leg 2 teammate, then pretty much crashed into another teammate who wrapped me in a blanket. It was cold! It was about 23* F during my leg and windy, and I remember during one particularly boring stretch of road (I later learned that Leg 1 is the ugliest and most boring part of the race, going past suburban sprawl and strip malls before meandering past woods and highway on-ramps) I had been entertaining myself by watching the huge breath-clouds I made every time I exhaled. (I said it was a boring stretch of road!) I was wearing thermal tights (under shorts, because that’s how I do), a single thermal base-layer under my singlet, thermal gloves, a hat, and Smartwool socks under a fun, stripey pair of old soccer socks. I was pretty cold waiting at the start, and got a bit chilly during walk breaks (motivation to run again quickly!), but otherwise I was happy with my choice of kit. I was warm enough while still moving, and actually got quite sweaty, which then got instantly icy as soon as I finished running. I was very thankful for the fleece blanket waiting for me!

I have to say, it was very nice to be done that early on so that I could relax and enjoy the rest of the race. I had brought a change of clothes (something else I was very thankful for, so that I wouldn’t have to stay in my icy, sweaty kit the rest of the day!) and changed in the backseat under a blanket. However, I had only brought a t-shirt, hoodie, and track pants, so I spent the rest of the race with my giant blanket wrapped around me. My team hopped out at the next exchange point to cheer and wrap our 2nd Legger in blankets, then sped off to the next point to repeat the process. It was so much fun to pass all the runners (we pretty much stuck to the course as we drove to each exchange point), because we’d roll down the windows and cheer/honk at every Shammie we saw. Some people’s faces lit up, some would wave or give thumbs-up, and others barely acknowledged us because they were too much in The Zone. It was fun for us regardless!

After we picked up our 3rd Legger and saw our 4th Legger off on her 9-mile journey, we stopped at a Dunkies for a rest stop/sustenance stop. The team had made a Dunkies stop during my leg (since they knew I’d take about an hour), so I was excited to have a turn with hot beverages and treats. I had already downed a bottle of Nuun and some chocolate milk, but I was really excited for something hot to warm my still-chilled bones.Β That Dunkaccino and frosted doughnut tasted amazing! It also felt nice to take a breather somewhere other than the car, and a ton of other relay runners must have agreed because the Dunkies was pretty mobbed and almost every other customer was wearing a singlet or run club jacket or hoodie.

After we enjoyed our treats, we bundled back into the car and drove along the most scenic stretch of the course to the next exchange point. The 9-mile leg traveled along the Merrimack River through Lowell, under train bridges and past huge renovated mills, and was really quite lovely. The exchange point was fun too, because we got there early enough that we were able to see a ton of runners take off on the last leg, including many of our fellow Shammies who we cheered on with gusto. There was music playing and people were dancing to keep warm, and it felt like a weird, cold party of blanket-draped people clothed almost entirely in wicking material. I loved it.

At 11:15, all remaining 5th leggers took off together in the interest of time (with whatever remaining 4th leg time to be added on to our total time at the end), so we cheered on Kristen and then waited for our 4th legger to arrive. When she did, she was glowing – she had just run her fastest pace ever for the whole distance and was totally giddy, which made the rest of us giddy, and we hopped in the car all excited to race to the finish line. Unfortunately the crazy traffic once we hit Lawrence meant that all but one of us missed Kristen’s finish (she hopped out at a stoplight to make sure someone was there to meet Kristen with a blanket and a cheer) as we tried to find parking. Once we did, we reunited and entered the Claddagh victoriously, ready for our pasta and celebrations.

I am so, so happy that Kristen peer-pressured convinced me to take part in this race. I never would have thought of doing it otherwise, and I had so much fun and really loved getting to spend the morning with some amazing Shammies. I was proud of my time – I was shooting for 55 minutes at best and came pretty darn close! – which was definitely helped by knowing that there were people waiting for me at the end. I met a bunch of “new” Shammies (not new to the club, but new to me) and loved the running solidarity among all the different run clubbers as our paths crossed during the course. The only con of the race was that there was no water stop during the first leg (which ticked off my teammates when I told them), which would have been really nice. Regardless, now I can’t wait for next December so I can sign up for the MCR again!

Green Stride Newburyport Half Marathon, 26 October 2014

What: Half marathon (my first!)

Where: Newburyport, Massachusetts
(the course also meandered into West Newbury for a bit, allowing me to check off another town on my map – yay!)

Course Map:

Who: Just me, with moral support from Drew, my dad, and Drew’s dad

Time: 02:37:58 Automatic personal record!

Splits: (according to Simon)
Mile 1: 11:37
Mile 2: 12:10
Mile 3: 11:51
Mile 4: 11:50
Mile 5: 11:25
Mile 6: 12:21
Mile 7: 13:34 (including a porta-potty stop)
Mile 8: 11:47
Mile 9: 12:16
Mile 10: 11:51
Mile 11: 11:59
Mile 12: 12:30
Mile 13: 10:37
Mile 13.1: 1:32

Recap: (I feel like my reviews have been getting a bit unwieldy lately, so I’m going to try for a slightly different format than usual. It will still be long and rambly, but hopefully slightly more organized!)

Pre-race

Drew and me posing with the Merrimack River after bib pickup.

Drew and me posing with the Merrimack River after bib pickup.

Green Stride (the race directors) had great communication via email during the week before the race – they laid out all the details, and even offered some encouragement which a nervous first-timer like me really appreciated!

I couldn’t make the bib pickup at the Greater Boston Running Company the day before, so my mini-entourage (me, Drew, and the FIL) left for Newburyport at 7:45 (the race started at 10). We got there just in time to score a parking spot in the public lot closest to the start/finish area, otherwise we would have been looking for street parking. Bib pickup itself was easy and quick at that point in the morning; we had been emailed our bib numbers ahead of time, and pickup was organized by number. With my bib I got I really nice tech t-shirt and a pint glass, which I gave away to another runner who seemed bummed she hadn’t gotten one (our kitchen cupboards are overrun with pint glasses!).

Race shirt and bling

Race shirt and bling

It was a little brisk by the river (upper 40s and windy), so we headed back to our car so my southern Californian FIL wouldn’t get too cold. There, in the shelter of the car, I pinned by bib, put on my new patella straps, and Body-Glided my toes (it feels weird but it does its job for me… I got no blisters!). About an hour before gun time I thought I’d scope out the porta-potty situation and start to warm-up. Holy porta-potty lines, Batman!! The pre-race emails had said “Unlike other races, there will be no lines for porto-potties at this race…….just kidding!” Having never run a race of this distance before, I had never experienced the insanity of pre-race porta-potty lines. Wow. However, the lines moved quickly and they seemed to be mostly clean and in decent shape.

(TMI: I panicked at the sight of the lines, decided I didn’t have to go after all, wandered away to warm-up, and then realized that warming up made me have to go again. When I wandered back, the lines had all doubled in size! Luckily the FIL had gotten in line for himself and sacrificed his place for me, which was very sweet. However, once inside I no longer had to go. What the heck, body?!)

The Race

Being goofy at the start

Being goofy at the start

After my porta-potty incident, I only had about 5 minutes to find my pace sign and get situated in the starting area. There was a bit of a crush of people around the barriers by the starting line itself, and I had to squeeze my way through runners and spectators to get down the sidewalk toward the back of the pack. I snagged a spot somewhere between the “10 minutes” and “walkers” signs, and was a little weirded out to find that I didn’t feel nervous at all! I was expecting major nerves but I was strangely calm and it felt a bit anticlimactic, like just any other race. I couldn’t hear the start signal, but the crowd lurched forward, and after a few false starts we were on our way.

The first mile felt great. I made sure to start off slowly, and there were lots of people out on the sidewalks and on their porches cheering us on. I tried to smile at everyone and thanked the ones who cheered, and waved at the ones on their porches. There were a few clusters of kids with their hands out, and I tried to high-five as many as possible. The crowd of runners ahead of me looked intense as it rose up the first hill… it looked like the Boston Marathon, there were so many people squeezed in together! (There were about 4000 runners, so clearly it wasn’t as many as Boston, but it looked like a lot at the time.)

I had planned to take quick walk breaks every 30 minutes so I could eat a chew and have some water – this fueling tactic had worked well during my last 2 long runs – but I was worried that my lack of a good breakfast would mess me up. (I had made myself a bagel with peanut butter and banana slices, but the bagel was crazy stale and it was mostly inedible. I ate what I could, but it didn’t seem like enough energy to carry me through 13.1 miles!) I stopped to have some chews maybe 2 miles in… it seemed early but I was starting to flag a tiny bit, plus there was a sizeable hill so it was a good opportunity! I was so worried that I wouldn’t have enough energy to make it the whole way.

By the time I got to mile 4, I was feeling great again. To be honest, I hadn’t hydrated enough, or warmed up enough, and my breakfast was pathetic, so really I could have probably felt great the whole time but set myself up for weariness. But my mile 4 I was in a groove. The course took us through a state park, which was all nice and woodsy, and then down along a lake. It was gorgeous, such a scenic route! I pulled alongside a guy around mile 5.5 to chat about his run club, the Wormtown Milers (hometown represent!) and spent a few minutes running side by side in companionable silence before I pulled away.

Luckily for me, the race organizers had decided to put 2 porta-potties at each water stop (I somehow missed this vital piece of info in the pre-race emails… if I had seen it, I don’t think I would have had such a weird porta-potty situation before the start!) and the ones at mile 7 were perfectly timed. As a bonus, they were the first ones to not have a line! And, considering how far back in the pack I was, the one I used was as immaculately clean as a porta-potty can be. Probably more TMI, but I was so happy about that porta-potty and set off happily once again, enjoying the rolling farmland on either side of the street.

[This is where I’d love to insert a photo of said views, but I decided to focus on running and didn’t stop to take any photos along the way. I kind of wish I had after all!]

My happiness didn’t last long, though. By mile 7.5 or 8, I started questioning why I was running a half marathon. The sun, which had been out for the first half of the race, had gone behind clouds and the wind off the lake picked up pretty strong. (I was so glad I had worn arm warmers – I had a whole debate with myself beforehand about what to wear, because I get really warm after running a short distance so I didn’t want too many layers –Β  because that wind was chilly!) The pack had thinned out by this point too, and I was alone for a few stretches. The start/end of the loop in West Newbury, where runners around miles 5 and 8 passed each other, and which had had tons of screaming spectators when I was at mile 5, was pretty much abandoned as I came back for mile 8. I still felt strong enough, but mentally was questioning my sanity for having signed up for this thing in the first place.

After running across the bridge back over I-95, the course spent a few miles going through industrial parks. After the supportive spectators and gorgeous scenery of old houses, forest, and lakes in the first half, this abrupt change to abandoned roads and buildings did not help my mood much. On the plus side though, it was flat! The pre-race emails had mentioned a change in course from previous years that removed some hills… I’m guessing the random detour around mile 11 which took us down a street only to turn around halfway and run back was part of that change to make up distance. I was still mentally bummed out, and even telling myself “Hey! Only a 5K left!” at mile 10 just served to depress me further.

At about mile 11.5, however, I started kicking that Negative Nelly to the curb… except I pictured it as the Blerch! Yes, I was a champ who needed her rest, but the nap I so badly wanted would have to wait until I was done running. I tuned out my Blerchiness and steeled myself to finish strong. I took one last walk break at about 11.75 miles, ate a few last chews, shook out and adjusted my posture, and away I went.

It was a good time to steel myself, because I was rewarded with another abrupt change in scenery; the course took a turn onto the Clipper City Rail Trail, a paved-over old railway line which was dotted with sculptures and turned into the Harborwalk, which was part boardwalk and part paved trail. Something magical happened to me on that trail… I reached the point where I felt like I couldn’t stop if I tried, and, knowing how close to the end I was, I started to pick up speed so I could finish quicker. My body felt like a machine and I lost count of how many people I passed. I stopped giving goofy thumbs-ups to the photographers, as I had been doing the whole race, and just focused on getting to the finish line.

When the boardwalk turned into trail again, I picked up the pace even more; I had run this part of the trail during my warmup and I knew how close to the end I was! The crowd was getting thicker and I could hear people cheering as I “flew” past them (I wasn’t sprinting by a long shot, but it felt like I was!). I passed one lady and then ended up stuck and slowed down by people running slowly side-by-side ahead of me on the trail, and the lady I passed sped up to catch me… I don’t think she liked being passed so late in the race. As soon as I spotted a sliver of space between the jogging people in front of me and the crowd, I slithered through and took off even faster toward the finish. Simon clocked my pace as around 7:45 at this point! I spotted Drew standing on a rock taking pictures and I waved goofily before pushing myself even harder. I didn’t see my dad and FIL standing next to Drew taking pictures, but FIL got this awesome shot of me at full stride, rounding the last corner (slightly less scary than the one my dad got):

Almost there!!

Almost there!!

There was one runner left between me and the finish line, and I didn’t really want to beat her (honest!) but I really, really wanted to be done with running so I set my sights to the right of her (she was all the way over on the left) and decided to gun it:

photo(1)

However, she decided she wanted to meander her way across the front of the finish line to cross closer to the right side, and I ended up having to slow down so that I wouldn’t crash into her. What the heck, wandering lady?! Totally killed my buzz for a moment there. Did she hear me approaching and was trying to block me from beating her? Or was she just oblivious, since she was wearing headphones, and didn’t realize she was blocking me? Either way, annoying.

Done!

Done! (Bonus: Drew is visible standing on a rock on the far right of this shot, and my dad and FIL are comparing photos on their phones next to him.)

That annoyance disappeared in milliseconds however, as I crossed the finish line and heard the PA guy say “Dana, you have arrived!” Hells yeah!! I ran a half marathon!!

Post-race

When I heard the PA man say I’d arrived, I thrust my fist in the air in victory and grinned. A smiling volunteer handed me my sweet finisher’s medal, and I carried on walking away from the finish line and away from the mass of people. As usual, in my experiences anyway, there was no water to be found immediately, so I wandered back and forth by the entrance to the post-race party, not wanting to get lost in the huge throng of people inside until my family found me. They spotted me within a minute or two, I got hugs, and then the dads-taking-all-the-pictures fandango began in earnest:

Showing off my medal and reppin' the Shammies

Showing off my medal, reppin’ the Shammies, and rocking some crazy, frizzy hair

This is my forced, "Please stop with the pictures, I need to find water" smile

This is my forced, “Please stop with the pictures, I need to find water” smile

And this is my "Maybe if I start closing my eyes in all your pictures you'll let me leave and get water" look

And this is my “Maybe if I start closing my eyes in all your pictures you’ll let me leave and get water” look

Finally the photo session stopped, my dad found me a bottle of water, and I stood tottering on my feet as everything sunk in. I had just run (and walked a bit) 13.1 miles! I had just totally killed the last bit of the race! My body became a machine at mile 12! I also kept thinking about how tired I was and how I never wanted to run that far again.

I put on my hoodie (it had gotten cold and the clouds were spitting rain by that point) and we set off for the car. I had two beer tickets and a pizza ticket attached to my bib, but I wanted none of that nonsense… all I wanted was chocolate milk and a place to sit down. As we approached the parking lot, my dad and FIL ran into the cafe that was right there, the Riverside Cafe, to see if they were still serving food (they close at 1 and it was about 1 by that point) while Drew and I continued to the car so I could put my sweatpants on and grab my clothes to change. We spotted some huge cement pipes over by the river and wandered over to take a quick victory picture (which involved my swinging myself up about 5 feet to climb on the pipes… how I managed to do that considering how exhausted I was I still don’t know!)

Victory picture

Victory picture

The dads had snagged a table at the cafe (which stayed open well past 3 to accommodate all the runners, which was above and beyond!), I changed out of my cold, sweaty running clothes, and enjoyed a late breakfast of scrambled eggs, a banana pancake, and chocolate milk. Thank you so much to the Riverside Cafe staff for feeding and sheltering us when you could have gone home!

It’s still a little mind-blowing that I managed to complete a half marathon, especially when I think about how I could still barely run a mile less than 2 years ago. Thank you to my blog buddies for all your support and advice along the way! πŸ˜€ Even though I promised myself while running this race that I would never run another half again, I’m already starting to reconsider… I kind of want to see if my body will go all runner-machine on me again! That felt pretty cool. Sigh, such is our fickle, running way!

Half Marathon in the Bag!

My first half marathon = successfully completed!

medal13.1 miles is a long way to run. I’m not sure I want to do it again, if I’m honest. But ask me again once I stop having to go down stairs at a glacial pace, with both feet on each step. Who knows? Maybe I’ll change my mind.

I’ll post a full recap soon, but for now thank you for all the support – on here, on Instagram, on Facebook, and in the awesome texts I received the morning of! You guys are the best πŸ™‚

I’ll also leave you with the photo that has taken the crown of Least Flattering Race Photo of Me, courtesy of my dad. This was taken as I rounded the last turn before the finish line, and clearly I was ready for the whole thing to be over:

finish

We can’t all be Ridiculously Photogenic Guy, right?

How was your weekend? Any one else race? How did it go?

Weekend Wrap-Up, 10/12(ish)

Another week in the books, during which I ran my longest run to date (double digits!!), sang my first karaoke (kind of), ran around the track like a speed demon (heck yes!), and avenged my husband on the soccer pitch (it’s how I do). Let’s recap, shall we?

Monday (scheduled): rest day
Monday (actual): rest day

Ahh, a nice, relaxing evening after a full weekend of long runs and race volunteering. Much needed and much appreciated!

Tuesday (scheduled): speed workout
Tuesday (actual): speed workout

I finally made it back to the track with the Shammies (my first speed workout since August 12!) and it was a workout worthy of a few boo-yeahs. Read all about it here in my giddy speed workout recap!

Wednesday (scheduled): soccer
Wednesday (actual): soccer (kind of)

I was surprisingly not sore after kicking butt in Tuesday’s speed workout, so I should have been raring for some soccer action… except that our game was at 9:30. At night. That’s a whole lot of nope right there. I’m getting too old for these sorts of shenanigans, especially when the team we play is young and fast and has way too much energy for that time of night.

Let’s just say my only contribution to our 2-1 loss was the ninja-like taking-out of the kid on the other team who kept stomping on Drew’s ankle. No one messes with my man. (Fun fact: I promised to always avenge him on the soccer pitch in my wedding vows, and I take my vows seriously.) One perfectly timed swipe of the ankle and my job was done… so well in fact that most of the other players on the pitch were confused as to why there was a free kick given, since I was nowhere near the kid when he went sprawling on the ground. I probably shouldn’t be proud of the fact that I’m an excellent fouler, but there you go.

Haters gon' hate. (source)

Haters gonna hate. (source)

I played for less than 10 minutes total, partly because I was too tired to even deal, but mostly because the pitch was rock-hard and knobbly and my right knee was killing me after running around for only a few minutes. If I didn’t have my first-ever half marathon coming up in a few weeks I would have pushed through it, but I don’t want to injure myself unnecessarily. In retrospect, my decision to return to soccer when I did was some pretty bad timing on my part. (The last game of the season is 4 days before my half.)

Thursday (scheduled): kickball
Thursday (actual): kickball

Still riding high from last week’s miraculous win, the Thursday Night Lights gathered at the field once again for another surprise victory. (Yay!) We didn’t have much hope when we first arrived, since the other team had apparently been there, practicing, for at least a half-hour, and because we only had 7 people show up on time. Somehow, despite not having a full team for an inning or two, and despite having the grumpy umpire who looks like Keith Richards call me out for apparently doing everything wrong at the plate (I did everything the way I always do; the other umpire never saw anything wrong with it so I assumed I was doing everything correctly), our team somehow pulled off a 3-1 win and I even managed to score one of our runs! We celebrated with pizza and beer (or cider, in my case) and a little karaoke, including my first-ever appearance behind the microphone! I only went up because every other lady on the team went up together and we all sang TLC’s “Waterfalls.” Mostly I did awkward dancing, but that counts, right?

Friday (scheduled): rest day
Friday (actual): rest day

Exhausted after two late nights in a row (like I said, I’m getting too old for these kinds of shenanigans), and unimpressed with how chilly it got at night, I opted to stay home and chat with my mum rather than be a good wife and cheer Drew on at his soccer game. He said it had been unbelievably cold up on the hill where the pitch is, so I think I made the right decision. Cozy-wise, anyway.

Saturday (scheduled): possible long run?
Saturday (actual): another rest day

It was a rainy, crappy day, perfect for being cozy inside with a cup of tea and a book. Drew and I watched some TV and played some video games, and it was a nice, chill day. Ah, lovely.

Sunday (scheduled): long run (if not done Saturday)
Sunday (actual): long run

fitsnapColin joined me this week for what was going to be my last long run before my half in two weeks. I really wanted to hit 10 miles, even though I knew that was upping my mileage a little too much/too quickly after having only hit 8.5 last week. Throwing caution to the wind, we embarked on a journey with the goal of 5 laps of the pond, with a mile of walking on either end for warm-up and cool-down.

I approached this run a little cockily after how well my long run went last week, when it was cool and cloudy and I hadn’t run very much in the week or so beforehand. My weather app said it was about the same temperature as last week, so I wore more or less the same clothes… only to have it be super sunny and quite warm once I got moving. I was ruing having worn long sleeves!

I don’t know if it was the unexpected heat, or the fact that I had run much more during the week, but my first two miles were terrible. I was getting bad cramps in my stomach that felt like side-stitches, but were front-stitches. (Is that a thing?) It hurt to breathe and I actually didn’t think I was going to make 2 miles, let alone 10, and Colin was trying to reassure me that we could quit and try again in a few hours once it cooled down. I really didn’t like the idea of going home and then having to drag myself back out for another run, so I pushed myself to just make 2 miles to see how I felt. Luckily it got better. A bit.

This long run was definitely not as good as my last one, but it did have its upsides. For one, when I hit the 7-mile mark, I didn’t suddenly want to keel over like I did last time; I actually felt pretty good at that point. The last few miles were actually relatively easy compared with the first few (that’s a good sign right??). Plus, this time I had my running buddy with me to chat with and that helped make the miles go by more quickly.

The one thing I really didn’t like about this run was how much pain I was in for most of it. In addition to my weird front-stitches in the beginning, my ankles and my right knee were hurting too. My right knee had started hurting towards the end of my long run last week, but the ankles were new. (Well, my ankles have always been pains, but they usually don’t hurt like this while I run.) The pain sort of went away after a few miles – to be replaced by hip-flexor pain where I think I might have pulled something doing that weird stretch before my first 10K a few weeks back – but then came back again toward the end. My knees, both of them now, are still bothering me the morning after, which is worrying me a bit. I’ve been icing them today and taking it easy, and hope that these next two weeks of tapering will do them good. Fingers crossed…

How was your week?

Any tips for easing knee pain, specifically in the soft bits around the kneecaps? (…should I be worried?!)

If you’re married, did you include any non-traditional parts to your vows?
I really did vow to avenge Drew on the soccer pitch! I don’t mess around πŸ™‚