Worcester Firefighters Memorial 6K, 3 June 2018

Where: Worcester, Massachusetts (course map)

Who: Just me, with moral support from Drew, the Bairn, and my dad

Benefited: Worcester Firefighters Scholarship Fund, Community Harvest Project, Genesis Club, American Society for Suicide Prevention, and NEADS

Time: 37:01 Personal record!

2018 was my fourth year running this race, and I PRd by a over a minute – and with a time more than 10 minutes faster than the first year I ran! (!!)

My streak ended in 2017 when I decided it was too hot for my out-of-shape postpartum self to attempt. I don’t regret that decision. To read my recaps from years past, see 20162015 and 2014.

Maker:S,Date:2017-11-11,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y

The Bairn waiting for the start of the race

Pre-race:

To be honest, this race happened so long ago now that many of the details from the day have fled my brain! Let’s see what I can recall.

I seem to remember feeling a bit more rushed than usual upon arrival… usually we got there early enough for me to pick up my bib and warm up. This year was the first time I registered on-site – my first time ever doing day-of registration for any race, actually! Rather than pre-register and have to DNS for some reason, it felt smarter to go this route. It worked out totally fine. I didn’t get a t-shirt, but hey, I’m getting to the point where I have so many race shirts I’m not sad if I miss out on another.

By the time I was pinning my bib, it was time to head to the starting line. Drew and the Bairn set off to find a good spectating position, and I weaved my way through the crowd to attempt to find a good starting spot. This is one area this awesome race could improve in – an organized starting area! No matter where I position myself in the crowd, I’m always weaving around walkers. I love, love, love that this race is so community-oriented and that so many people of all different abilities participate. But it would also be cool if people planning to walk could be encouraged to start at the back.

Anyway. The pipe and drum band marched by, remarks were given, and we were away.

Maker:S,Date:2017-11-11,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y

The start. Can you find me?

Maker:S,Date:2017-11-11,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y

Well, my running form is back to wonky, but hey, I was out there!

The race:

One cool thing about running this race so many times is that I’m getting to really know the course – know the turns, the hills, where the shade and water stops are, and when I tend to start to flag.  I know when and where I can push myself, and where to take it easy.

That plus the gorgeous 70-something temps made this year’s race feel easy. This race is held at midday, and the past years I’ve run it’s been in the high 80s or low-to-mid 90s, so 70s made it feel downright cool!

I also was determined to push myself this year, and I ran hard. Not all out by any means, but definitely harder than in years past. Granted, it was easier to push myself in the cooler temps, and I didn’t have an injury slowing me down, but it felt really good to actually try to race, rather than just dally my way toward the finish.

I think I was pushing myself to see how I could do, since I don’t try it too often. I knew I had another race the following week (recap to come… sometime in the future!) that I was going to push the Jogging Stroller in, and I knew that wouldn’t be a prime opportunity to really run, so I told myself I could take it easy the next time. This was the time to see what my body was capable of (at least with minimal training), and a chance to run hard to run through parenting and work and general frustrations. Huzzah for running to keep one’s sanity!

The first 2 miles or so felt pretty awesome and I felt strong, but sometime in the final third I started struggling a bit. I was determined to only walk during water stops, and I managed to run the rest of the time, but I was definitely flagging near the end. I forced myself up the last hill to the finish, then wobbled off to sit under a tree and focused very hard on not puking.

Post-race:

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The Bairn spent most of the race trying to climb Mount Stroller

This was the first year I ran where the giant misting fan wasn’t at the finish line – boo! It took longer than usual to recover, thanks to my determination to push it despite not training at all. I sat under that tree for quite a long time, while my dad took the Bairn to inspect some fire trucks. Some water and ice cream helped!

Yet again, we didn’t stick around for the post-race party. One of these years I’d love to take more advantage of the park and the barbecue and adult beverages and general frivolity. This year our excuse was a grumpy Bairn who was bored of the scenery and getting close to naptime.

I did walk away from the race with a nice runner’s high, feeling strong and accomplished, and especially chuffed when I saw my official results – a PR of over a minute, and a whopping 10+ minutes faster than my first time running the WFD6K! The cooler temps certainly helped, but I was still proud of managing to finish the race with an average pace of 9:55.

Can I nab another PR in next year’s race? Will I actually get around to training? Will the scorching temperatures make a vengeful return? Only time will tell!

 

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James Joyce Ramble, 24 April 2016

What: 10K

Where: Dedham, Massachusetts (course map)

Who: Me and a few Shammies

Time: 1:07:53 (personal record!)

Splits*:

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*Splits from Simon, who was misbehaving and didn’t start working until I was a ways past the start line

The Background:

This race has the honor of being the first one I’ve crossed off my bucket list (huzzah!). It caught my attention two years ago – I was an English major in college and am a lover of literature in general, so a race in honor of James Joyce sounded very appropriate for me to run! – and, after being unable to run it last year, I made sure to register right away this year.

I wasn’t expecting a good race at all because, let’s face it, I had run one measly mile since mid-March. When I registered, I assumed I’d be making my way through a half marathon training plan and thus in decent shape, but the wheels fell off somewhere along the way and I was facing having to run 6+ miles wholly unprepared.

However, this was a bucket list race, and I was determined to not DNS it. I decided I’d follow my Gait Retraining Guru’s (GRG) advice and run-walk (like I was supposed to do at the Shamrocks on the Rocks 5K), and if I had to walk more than run, then so be it. It would be another “do it for the experience” race rather than a PR quest, and I accepted that.

The Race:

I carpooled down to the race with a few Shammies, and we left HQ bright and early to ensure a good parking spot on-site. We had plenty of time to pick up our bibs and t-shirts:

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Race shirt

…wander around to the vendor tables to get free snacks, and warm up a bit. Before long, announcements were being made for the runners participating in the USATF Masters Championship part of the race to go to the starting line – they started a few minutes before everyone else – and my bladder went into panic mode. (I shared a semi-TMI story about my dodgy bladder’s antics before my first half marathon… similar things were happening here.)

I missed the start of the Masters race, and was scurrying to get to the back of the pack before the race started when I heard the announcement that Uta Pippig would be hitting the starting gong for our race. I happened to glance to my left after that announcement and realized that I was right in front of the little podium that held both the gong and Uta! I fangirled pretty hard for a second – I love Uta and watched her win the Boston Marathon a few times from the comfort of my couch – before scrabbling for my phone and taking a terrible picture:

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Uta (with ponytail) is standing behind the gentleman who crossed my path right as I spun to take the picture… sorry for getting all up in your grill, sir!

Giddy, I made it to the back of the pack with seconds to spare, where I exchanged smiles and “have a good race”s with a few nearby runners, and then we were off.

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About to cross the starting line

It was an absolutely gorgeous day for a run, and I was chuffed to be running… or attempting to run, anyway. I started off nice and slow, knowing I’d be doing a run-walk but with no strict plan in mind. The race is in Dedham, which has a lovely, historic downtown that I hadn’t visited before, so I was tried to distract myself from the fact that I was already winded by enjoying the scenery as I lolloped along:

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One of the unique features of this race that piqued my interest in the first place, is the presence of actors along the course who dress up in 1920s-ish-era clothes and read selections from James Joyce novels. My inner nerd was positively giddy each time I spotted another actor along the course, and I took a bunch of pictures:

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The run itself was going surprisingly well. I was trying to keep up proper form, as per my GRG, which makes me run a little faster than usual. Even with walk breaks, I was finding that my miles were almost all clocking in under 11:00, which got the competitive part of my brain thinking that perhaps a PR was possible. Even if it weren’t, I was still pleased with how I was doing, considering my utter lack of preparation!

The course was lovely, with a mix of residential neighborhoods, woods, and the charming downtown providing changes of scenery to keep me distracted. There was one section of killer hills in Mile 4, which made me slow down a bit and mentally kick myself for choosing to wear a long-sleeved hoodie. (I usually opt for minimal clothing, as I tend to go into furnace-mode during races, but my Shammie running buddies were both wearing jackets to race in and I let myself be peer-pressured into wearing something more substantial. I need to learn to go with my gut!)

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Hating my clothing choice. And hills.

The last bit of the course loops back through downtown Dedham and is a long, slow uphill. I mistook the last turn onto a straightaway as a sign that I was quite close to the finish, and I sped up just a bit in an effort to finish quicker so I could get the running over with. Turns out the last straightaway is much longer than it seems! But I surprised myself by steadily pushing faster, and at last I cruised over the finish line to a very welcome bottle of water.

Post-Race – The Rant:

I tottered away from the road to walk a bit before stretching, and set my sights on a shady spot under a tree that looked like a nice place to catch my breath. It was as I trudged toward that tree that I realized something a bit disheartening about the race. It’s hard to put into words, and it certainly wasn’t enough to ruin the day, but… I felt almost like a second-class citizen because I didn’t run the race competitively.

The USATF championship part of the race is a big draw, and people and running clubs from all over the country come to Dedham to compete. I’m guessing that’s why Uta Pippig was there too – it’s kind of a big deal. Big-name run clubs were present, like B.A.A., even if their members weren’t Masters, and the race is definitely geared toward those runners. And those runners definitely act like it.

One of the things I love the most about the running community is just that – the sense of community. Maybe I’ve just run mostly small-time races, but race day is always accompanied by a friendly atmosphere like we’re all in it together, all there for the love of the run. But at the Ramble, me and my non-run-club purple hoodie just felt in the way, or like I was crashing the Big Kids’ party that I was technically invited to but not really welcome at. Remember the smiles and well-wishes I mentioned at the back of the pack before the start? Race-wise, that was the only real community feeling I experienced.

Maybe it was the annoyed glances I got when a Real Runner had to wait in the porta-pottie line behind me, or behind others not wearing singlets. Maybe it was how, as I struggled up the hill toward my Tree of Shady Goodness, I had to bail off the sidewalk to make way for the B.A.A. runners doing their cool-down 4-abreast, and who were certainly not slowing down for or giving room to the red-faced mess just trying to stay upright and moving… and when there was an entire road, still closed to traffic, that was open for them to run in. Maybe it was how, about 30 seconds later, I had to stop suddenly to avoid getting run over by another cluster of singlets who decided – after I had gotten off the sidewalk to give them room – that they needed to make their way across the grass in the exact spot that I was about to step into. Maybe it was because the race photographers only took photos of the Real Runners at the finish line.

Typing those things out, they really don’t seem all that bad, and I feel a little whiny reading it back, like everyone should have been paying attention to me instead of their cool-down runs. (But still! It’s not hard to look where you’re going and/or be considerate of others, especially others who are clearly not in as good as shape as you and probably look ready to faint!)

Anyway. Like I said, it’s hard to put into words. People talk about the Ramble as a great community event – and it is! – but there was still this underlying feeling that I wasn’t really welcome, and that got under my skin a little. There’s a good chance I’m blowing things out of proportion, and that I’m the only one who felt this way about the race. After all, it is billed as a USATF Masters Champsionship first and foremost, so maybe I should have expected this. Maybe I’m just turning into an old curmudgeon! Moving on…

Post-Race – The Fun:

After doing some angry stretching after the singlet bombardment described above, I found my Shammies and we made a bee-line for the beer line. I was chuffed to see that there was cider available – and a yummy new summer blend I hadn’t tried yet! – and took a can with a proud smile after hearing the hipster with the lumberjack beard behind me complain about how lame cider is. (More for me!)

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Hydration, New England-style

Shammie C had packed a bag full of snacks, and we splayed out on the grass and tucked in. It was such a perfect day, with that not-too-warm, not-too-cool temperature in the low-60s that made me so happy to spend a few hours lazing about in the sun. We chatted with friends, chatted with strangers, and pet some friendly dogs.

After the awards ceremony – winning runners got James Joyce novels along with their prize money, how cool is that? – as the band started rocking, I checked the race results and saw that I PR’d by 7 minutes. Wait, what?! I was gobsmacked. I had forgotten to look at the race clock when I crossed the finish, and Simon was off because, with all my fangirling, I had forgotten to start him in time, so a PR – especially one that significant! – was a total surprise. Shammie C got me another cider to celebrate and Shammie E got a picture of us doing a celebratory dance:

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All things considered, it was a fun day. Curmudgeonly grumblings aside, it was a fun race – I liked the course and loved the literary actors reading to us as we ran by – and the post-race festivities were a good time. I am still amazed at my PR, and at the fact that I did so decently in spite of not training, and I’m glad I got my lazy bum out and moving on such a gorgeous spring day. Am I glad I ran the Ramble? Totally. Would I run it again? Meh…

Have you ever run a race that left a bit of a bad taste in your mouth?

Be honest – did I blow things out of proportion?
Have I been too spoiled by races that celebrate the accomplishments of every runner?

(Check out my less verbose and complainy* review of this race on BibRave!)

*((I started a version of my above rant on BibRave, but it raged out of control and I decided to rein it in. After all, it was my personal feelings, not the race itself.))

Dockweiler New Year’s Conquest, 9 January 2016

What: 5K

Where: Los Angeles, California (course map)

Who: Just me, with moral support from Drew

Benefited: Lupus LA

Time: 30:26 Personal record!

Splits:
-Mile 1: 9:38
-Mile 2: 9:46
-Mile 3: 9:59
-Mile 3.1: 1:03

Recap:

So, this happened. I finally beat my Moby Dick 5K PR, on a weekend when I hadn’t thought I’d be able to fit any running in. How did this happen? Get comfortable, kids… I have a story to tell about my New Year’s Conquest at Dockweiler Beach.

Victory!

Victory!

Due to some unfortunately timed family events, Drew and I found ourselves getting ready to return to LA a mere 10 days after having gotten home from a Cali Christmas. This second trip was really only 3 days long not counting flights, so I hadn’t even entertained a thought of sneaking in another warm winter race until a few Shammies, having heard my tale of conquering LA hills over Christmas, asked if I would be racing again. Though I said no, the seed was planted.

Soon I was on Running in the USA, checking if there would be any races happening during my small window of free time in LA. Sure enough, there was a 5K/10K/15K being held a short drive from my in-laws’ house, and – not only that – it was a race with bling AND registration was pretty inexpensive. I checked with Drew to make sure he wouldn’t hate me for signing up for a 7am race, then giddily signed up for the Conquer Our Run race at Dockweiler Beach.

Saturday morning arrived, and with the help of a brain still set (mostly) on east coast time, I was up before dawn and ready to run. Bib pickup started at 6:30 and the race was due to start right at 7, so the sun was only starting to rise during our journey to the beach.

Bib pick-up

Bib pick-up**

The race was small (77 participants total for the 3 distances, according to the results), so bib pick-up was quick and easy. Volunteers with lists greeted runners, who were directed into a line upon arrival. Shirts were available for purchase, and each runner got a goodie bag with vitamins, chocolate-covered pretzels, a sports drink, and some protein powder:

IMG_5612The sun was rising spectacularly as I pinned my bib, and just seemed to get increasingly beautiful as the seconds ticked by. I took about a million pictures, but here are two of my favorites:

IMG_5611IMG_5613The race photographer even captured a shot of me running warm-up laps with the sunrise as a backdrop:

If only my gait didn't look so messed up. Sigh.

If only my gait didn’t look so messed up. Sigh.**

With several minutes to go until start time, all the runners got called over for some group warm-ups, led by a coach at a local fitness training place. I liked warming up as a group… not only did it force me to actually warm up (which I’ve been known to skip a few too many times), but it was also way more fun in a group setting.

Circled up for warm-ups

Circled up for warm-ups

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Arm circles**

Once that was done, the race director called us in for a huddle. She explained about the series of races she directs (Conquer Our Run), explained the course (a straight-line out-and-back along the service road, with one out-and-back for 5K runners, 2 for 10K, and 3 for 15K), and pumped us up to run and have some fun:

Pre-race pep talk... you can see me (and Drew!) looking pretty cold, directly under the tanker ships in the distance

Pre-race pep talk… you can see me (and Drew!) looking pretty cold, directly under the tanker ships in the distance**

Quick note about the temperature. I talked big in my last recap about how lots of runners were bundled against the “cold” which was my ideal running temp. This time was quite a bit chillier (though still much warmer than it would have been at a race closer to home!), with the wind coming off the ocean and the fact that the sun wasn’t out yet. I was so glad I had brought my arm sleeves.

On your mark, get set...

On your mark, get set…**

...go!

…go! Look how happy everyone is!**

Drew caught us as we crested the little hill and turned onto the service road

Drew caught us as we crested the little hill and turned onto the service road

He also caught me in the middle of the pack, looking positively giddy

He also caught me in the middle of the pack, looking positively giddy

Here’s a glimpse into where my brain was at the start of this race: I had gone into the hilly Christmas 2 Give 5K worried about injury and intent on taking it easy, and yet sub-9:00 paces felt easy at the start. I ran with that feeling (literally) and ended up doing way better in the race than I expected… so good, in fact, that it was my 3rd fastest 5K ever, even with the ridonk hills.

This race was flat as a pancake, with the exception of the short incline at the start and the occasional speed bump. If I could match my Christmas 2 Give effort, then I could probably do pretty darn well. I could maybe even PR. In fact, I was sure of it. This was the first race I started with actual confidence that I’d do well, and the first race I actually went all* out in. (*More or less.)

Rather than start at the back of the pack and cruise easily for the first mile or so like I usually do, I passed a bunch of people and ran. Not an all-out sprint, but not a leisurely jaunt… I actually felt like I was putting in an effort. I was obsessive about glancing at Simon and saw lots of high 8:00s and low 9:00s and felt pretty chuffed with myself.

Until I started slowing down. I was frustrated, because those speedy paces had felt so easy at the last race… then I realized, those speedy paces happened because a good chunk of the start of that last race was downhill. There were no downhills here, no gravity to help me, just me and the flat, flat road.

I pushed a little until Simon beeped for 1 mile – 9:38. Not bad! However, I was already being battered by my Blerch. My knee was hurting, my ankle was hurting, my foot was slapping the pavement weirdly, and my right arm was weirdly tingly and kind of hurt, and it was freaking me out a little. Despite the warm-up, I wasn’t very warm, and all I could focus on was my freezing hands, and all the other things I just listed. The Blerch was telling me to stop, to walk for a bit, but I didn’t want to. I decided to push until the turnaround, where we were told there would be water, and then I’d take some water and walk to drink it.

And then I got to the turnaround and there was no water. Womp womp. (I later realized the director had said we could ask for water, but I didn’t see any at the time so I didn’t bother asking.) I steeled myself to keep going. Simon beeped for 2 miles – 9:46. I was happy to see I was still sub-10:00, which I couldn’t remember happening for more than 1 mile in a race before. A shiny grail with “PR” engraved on it appeared in the clouds before me, and I gritted my teeth and pressed on.

Gone was the giddy smile from my picture at the start. I had warmed up, but my knee still hurt. My ribs were starting to hurt, and the sinuses in my head were so pissed off at me. But the grail was still there, so I kept pushing. I caught up with another runner who was going just ever so slightly slower, and I decided to pace her. I was lurking over her shoulder for a good quarter-mile or so – no intention of pipping her at the end, I was just desperate for someone to keep up with – until I just couldn’t anymore.

At around the 2.5 mark I stopped. I gave myself from a signpost to the next speed bump to walk and shake things out, but when I got there I couldn’t bring myself to run. My head was pounding, my ribs were killing me, I was *this close* to vomiting, and I was sucking wind like crazy. This is why you don’t start too fast!! I was scolding myself. I switched Simon to overall time and saw I was still within PR range, but just barely. That was enough. I was off again.

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On the home stretch

I tried to summon all the mental tricks I could. Telling myself I only had a half-mile to go, trying to remember the machine feeling I’ve had at the end of races before, trying a thing Colin told me once, where you visualize hammers in your hands and you swing them forcefully backwards to propel you forward. I chicked a guy and tried to stay ahead of him. I tried to focus on the beautiful scenery and the novelty of planes from LAX taking off directly over my head. I repeated the mantra “Don’t puke don’t puke don’t puke.”

"Don't puke don't puke don't puke" (far right)

“Don’t puke don’t puke don’t puke” (far right)**

I spotted the finish line, and I saw Drew with his phone ready to snap my usually goofy near-the-finish picture. I didn’t even have the spare energy to look at him, let alone smile:

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That view though.

That view though.

And then there it was: the finish line. My brain was yelling “sprint!!!” but my body was all “oh helllllll no.” I cruised down the incline, trying to wish the race photographer away:

This is what you look like when you're wishing the photographer away

This is what you look like when you’re wishing the photographer away… like you’ve aged 20 years**

I stopped Simon, heard someone at the finish line yell out my bib number and a time (the time didn’t register), and staggered away to find water. A volunteer stopped me dead in my tracks to give me a medal (a dog tag) and ask my name, which I croaked out, swaying a little, and then I lurched over to another volunteer to ask for water. The race photographer caught this moment too, which looks much more cheerful than I remember:

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**

I finally found water, guzzled some, wandered about a bit, and then looked at Simon for real. 30:26. A 23-second PR, official results pending. Drew found me dazed but smiling. I looked at my splits and saw that all 3 miles clocked in under 10:00 – something I had never* done before (*I guess I must have at the Moby Dick race, but wasn’t tracking myself so don’t know what my splits were). As my urge to projectile vomit settled down, the runner’s high began to hit… and then it got better – I got a prize!

The pre-race info promised that top finishers would get swag from the movie 13 Hours (seriously, how LA is it to give out movie swag as prizes?). As I was still a bit dazed, the race director came up to me and handed me a poster. Since I am never considered a top finisher, I assumed they had extras and the director was just being nice. After all, there had been a bunch of runners ahead of me. Then Drew told me that most of the runners ahead of me had kept going – they were running the longer distances.

Brandishing my movie poster

Brandishing my movie poster

Turns out, I finished 9th out of 40 women, and 15th overall for the 5K. What?!?! Damn yo, small races are awesome! And, the official results match my Garmin time, so my 23-second PR stands. Moby Dick has been harpooned, and that elusive sub-30 finish is looming ever nearer! My quads are still killing me 3 days later, but it was a pretty fabulous way to start the year!

**Photos with asterisks courtesy of the race director**

Worcester Firefighters Memorial 6K, 14 June 2015

What: 6K (~3.73 miles) road race

Where: Worcester, Massachusetts (course map)

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

Benefited: Worcester Firefighters Scholarship Fund, Community Harvest Project, Genesis Club, American Society for Suicide Prevention, and NEADS

Time: 43:44 Personal record!

Splits (according to Simon*):
-Mile 1: 12:27
-Mile 2: 11:43
-Mile 3: 12:10
-Mile 3.6: 7:26
*My splits are a bit off because I started Simon late

Race swag:

I love the design of this year's shirt but - again - the small is way too big for me!

I love the design of this year’s shirt but – again – the small is way too big for me!

Recap: This was the second year I ran the WFD6K (you can read my recap of last year’s race here). As I explained in last year’s post, this race means a lot to me as it’s a memorial for the Worcester 6, the six firefighters who gave their lives protecting their city (my hometown) during the Cold Storage Fire in 1999. This race has been run in their memory every year since 2000, and has grown every year; this year there were 1500 participants, according to the race director.

Thankfully it wasn’t as hot for the race this year as it was last year… last year (if I remember correctly) it was in the upper 80s and very humid. This year, the temperature at gun time was 78 and it wasn’t too bad humidity-wise. It was definitely still a hot race to run – especially with a midday start, a high in the 80s, and not much shade on the course – but it certainly wasn’t as bad as last year. This year I made sure to hydrate properly, downing 96oz of water and Nuun the day before, as well as 32oz before the race. I remembered my red, throbbing head from the year before, and I wasn’t messing around this time!

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Before the race

Packet pickup was a breeze. Each preregistered runner got an email a few days prior with their bib number, saying to hang on to the email to make pickup quicker. The bibs were organized by number, so knowing yours beforehand definitely sped things up (they also had everyone’s numbers posted in case people weren’t sure). The registration tent this year was actually down in the park adjacent to the start/finish line, whereas last year it was on the sidewalk and very crammed. Much better this way!

With our bib we got a tech t-shirt (see swag above), which unfortunately ran very large. I went back to the shirt people to ask if they had anything smaller than a small, but the guy just shrugged and told me to eat a few ice creams before wearing mine. So Drew will inherit yet another of my sweet race shirts. Oh well! With our shirts we also got bags full of papers – ads, coupons, race apps, brochures… basically a small tree.

Worcester Firefighter Pipes and Drums marching before the start of the race

Worcester Fire Brigade Pipes and Drums marching before the start of the race

I sought out some shade to pin my bib and don sunscreen, then waited in the long but fast-moving porta-potty line (there were maybe 9 or 10 porta-potties total), and, again remembering how rough last year’s race was, started warming up. Last year I didn’t warm up at all and my right calf gave me grief for the entire first mile. This year I made sure I had plenty of time to do some high knees, butt-kicks, skipping, quad-stretch-toe-touching-thingies, toy soldiers (or “Hitler walks” as Colin used to call them), hackey-sacks, and the leg-swinging stretches. I’m still working on fine-tuning my ideal warmup routine, but felt pretty good about this one. My dad found us about 10 minutes before gun time for a good-luck hug, and then he and Drew set off one way while I made my way to the back of the pack at the starting line.

My view of the starting line from the back of the pack

My view of the starting line from the back of the pack

The one complaint I have about this race is what happened next. Around 11:15/11:20, the lady on the PA was telling everyone to get to the starting line, as gun time was set for 11:30. The vast majority of people obeyed and we all milled around, finding good spots in the crowd, and waited for the start. Then, at 11:30, announcements started. The race director talked for a while, then handed the mic over to a few others. Balloons were released in memory of the Worcester 6, some more people talked, and then the national anthem was played. And then they requested a moment of silence. And then, after some more talking, the fire engine horns signaled the start of the race… 15 minutes after the race was supposed to start.

I understand that this is a very special event for the city of Worcester and for the firefighters and their families. That’s the whole reason why I run this race! Moments of silence and ceremonial gestures are special parts of the event. But if you’re going to make announcements and thank sponsors while all the runners are standing in the beating midday sun, for the love of god, please don’t ramble on for 15 minutes! Had I known that there was going to be that amount of talking, I would have moved off the course and stood in the shade. People around me were beading with sweat just standing there. Plus, being in the back, we couldn’t hear about two-thirds of what was being said anyway… most people around me didn’t even join in the moment of silence because they all started talking excitedly after the national anthem and didn’t hear the announcement (either that or they were just rude, but I like to think not). By the time the race finally got going, any warming up people had done before toeing the line was probably moot. It was a little ridiculous.

And we're (finally) off! I'm 4th from the left, looking super serious.

And we’re (finally) off! I’m 4th from the left, looking super serious.


Drew caught me (circled) a few minutes later, giving a thumbs-up and happy to be running once again

Drew caught me (circled) a few moments later, giving a thumbs-up and happy to be running once again

My plan for the race – in addition to the general rule of TAKE IT EASY – was to run-walk a ratio of 4 minutes to 2 minutes. My PT had recently bumped me up to 3:2 (running for 3, walking for 2) and I figured I’d try a 4:2 at the start to see how it felt.

The first half-mile or so was spent dodging so many people. Knowing I’d be walking part of the race, I started at the back, but in front of people who were talking about walking the whole thing (there were no pace signs). I was amazed at how many walkers had started so far up the pack, but as I was clearly not gunning for any time records, I just calmly bobbed and weaved (gently) and did my thing.

During my first walk break I was passed by some firefighters in their gear

During my first walk break I was passed by some firefighters in their gear

Despite my best intentions with my warmups, my right calf was a jerk again for the first mile – just like last year. (Though, to be honest, by the time the race *actually* started, did my warming up even matter?) However, I was chuffed at how I felt otherwise… I felt great! Landmarks that had felt so far into the race last year were appearing way faster than expected, like the hairpin turn and the fire station with a hose out to spray runners. I felt like I could run for more than 4 minutes at a time, but didn’t want to overdo it.

Drew and my dad were waiting just before the course crosses at Mile 2. They were in the same spot last year, when I had to force myself to run when I saw them… I was already struggling in the heat pretty bad by that point. This year, however, I was feeling amazing and greeted them with my arms in the air and a huge grin:

Arms aloft in victory

Arms aloft in victory

Just past this point in the race, the faster runners started passing us on the other side of the street, and we dipped down into a lovely, shaded tunnel for a bit. I high-fived a few runners going the other way, and I was keeping my eyes peeled (with no success, sadly) for Day of the Dead arm sleeves so I could yell “Go LunaSea!!” I ran through the second water stop, high-fived some firefighters who were road guards, and was chugging along quite happily until about Mile 3.

Mile 3 was when I realized my head was throbbing and that I was quite warm, actually. The one thing that was keeping me going was that I knew a water stop was coming up… except by the time I got there the water was hot. Not refreshing at all! So I steeled myself to just keep going until the next spot where firefighters the year before had been spraying runners with a hose… except they weren’t there this year. When I realized that, I slowed to a walk and broke out my packet of Honey Stinger chews that I had brought just in case.

What I forgot was that at that point in the race, I was so unbelievably close to the finish line! Simon had turned off during the epic pre-race announcements (even though I had managed to save him from power-saving twice) and I didn’t get him started until I was already a ways past the starting line, a fact which I had forgotten by this point and I still thought I had quite a distance to go before the end. I struggled with the packet of chews for a bit and was just stuffing the first one into my gob when I realized that I could see the finish line. I crammed another chew or two in and then steeled myself to run the rest.

Flashing Drew a smiley thumbs-up as I approach the finish line

Flashing Drew a smiley thumbs-up as I approach the finish line

Last year I had managed to sprint the uphill finish, but this year I didn’t want to exacerbate my knee problems so I just cruised relatively easy up the hill. A cluster of people were in front of me, crammed over on the right side of the road, but the finish line stretched the whole width so I moved over, passed the little cluster, and felt like a rock star with half the course to myself:

Huzzah!

Huzzah!

I floated across the finish, slowed to a walk, and made a beeline for the water table and, of course, the giant misting fan. A million thank-yous to the Sutton Fire Department for bringing that thing to this race each year! After standing in the cool mist with a huge grin on my face, I met up with Drew and my dad and we walked off to the post-race party to get some snacks.

Post-race party in Institute Park

Post-race party in Institute Park

There was an ice cream truck giving out free ice cream (yay!) so I grabbed one and then found a quiet, shady spot behind the bandstand where I could sit and ice my knee, which had bravely carried me the distance:

Ice packs and ice cream

Ice packs and ice cream

We sat for a while, enjoying the cool shade by the pond, and I couldn’t stop smiling at the fact that I had just run (run-walked, but still) a race after 5 weeks of only the most minimal bouts of running since being diagnosed with patellofemoral syndrome, and that my knee wasn’t hurting! We heard the pipes start up and wandered over to the other side of the bandstand to watch the WFBP&D play:

photo(12)My dad ran over to the posted results to see how I did, and came back with a report of 43:something… I had PR’d even though I was taking it easy! As it turned out, I finished about 3.5 minutes faster than last year. Hopefully next year I’ll be able to run it injury-free!

I love the WFD6K. I don’t like that it starts at 11:30… if it were during the winter I’d be okay with that, but mid-June? Ugh. I also didn’t like the long-winded announcements at the start of this year’s race. Otherwise, it’s awesome. I love the course, I love that the road guards are mostly firefighters and that they applaud and thank the runners (many of whom thank the firefighters too), I love that the fire station we pass puts out a hose to cool us down, I love that runners high-five each other when our paths cross at the tunnel, I love the Pipes and Drums, I love the post-race party, I love the charities that benefit, I love that we run for the Worcester 6… I love it all, and I hope to run this race every year for many years to come!

29th Annual Cambridge CityRun 5 Miler, 29 March 2015

What: 5-mile road race

Where: Cambridge, Massachusetts (course map)

Who: Me and my Couch to 5 Miler classmates, plus a coworker, with moral support from Drew

Benefited: Friends of Cambridge Athletics and the Andrea Harvey Memorial Fund

Time: 53:30 Automatic personal record!

Splits (according to Simon):
-Mile 1: 10:36
-Mile 2: 10:37
-Mile 3: 11:01
-Mile 4: 10:55
-Mile 5: 10:06

Photos: (click to open larger versions)

Against my better judgement, I experimented with a new pre-race breakfast... scrambled eggs with spinach, peanut butter toast, and a tiny bit of tea.

Against my better judgement, I experimented with a new pre-race breakfast… scrambled eggs with spinach, peanut butter toast, and a tiny bit of tea.

Most of the members of my Couch to 5 Miler class, posing before the race start. (I don't know what I was doing... talking/eating??)

Most of the members of my Couch to 5 Miler class, posing before the race start. (I don’t know what I was doing… talking/eating??) Photo from GetFit’s facebook page.

Drew's shot of me approaching the finish line.

Drew’s shot of me approaching the finish line.

And my official finish line photo, complete with a photobombing Drew.

And my official finish line photo, complete with a photobombing Drew.

Recap: Yikes… this recap is way later than I intended it to be! Let’s get down to it, shall we? (Apologies for how disjointed this post reads!)

As I’ve written about before, I signed up for a Couch to 5-Miler class through my work’s GetFit program, and this Cambridge CityRun race was the end goal for that class. In our first class, I set a time goal for the race (finish in under 55 minutes) based on my time for the leg I ran of the Mill Cities Relay, and also set a goal to stick to the training plan we were given.

Everything started out peachy keen, and then I hurt my rib cartilage during a coughing fit and was sidelined for an unfortunate amount of time. I missed a bunch of training classes, couldn’t stick to my training plan, and was just hoping that I’d still be able to run the race, let alone meet any kind of goal times. I think I managed one run in the month leading up to the CityRun, so I didn’t have high hopes for race day.

Packet pickup for the race was simple enough – Marathon Sports had set hours for pickup at their Cambridge store all week before the race, and there was day-of pickup as well. I chose in-store pickup and it was super easy. In fact, I was the only one there for pickup, so it was super fast as well! I got my bib, some safety pins, and a shirt, and that was all for swag.

I had been keeping an eye on the weather for race day all week, and had been so excited that the day looked to be mid-40s and sunny. Warmth at last! But, being New England, and this being the winter from hell, of course the weather wasn’t going to cooperate. As I walked from the car to the starting line, here’s what the weather looked like:

Brr.

Brr.

The sun was relatively warm, but the wind was frikkin cold. So I decked myself out in tights, a hat, and thermal base layers and grumbled about how sick I am of this winter!

The GetFit team had a table near the start/finish line where we all gathered. I expected that our 5-miler instructor, who was also running the race, would lead us in warmups beforehand, but everyone just milled around and chatted. When I saw the instructor getting ready to take off on a solo warmup run, I jumped at the chance to run with her. We ran at a good clip for maybe a quarter-mile and then everyone started gathering at the starting line. Had I known I was on my own for warmups, I would have actually done some on my own! Oh well.

The starting line was at the bottom of a hill, and I assumed we’d be starting uphill. Thankfully we started downhill, but the “flat” description of the course was pretty inaccurate. There were some hills! Not giant ones, but we certainly felt the inclines… especially the steepest one in the last mile! Despite my lack of training and complete lack of hill running all winter, I was able to run them all without having to take walk breaks. That made me happy!

What also made me happy was the unexpected running buddy I had for the race. I’m currently part of a “strike force” [to be read as STRIKE FORCE!!] at work, and one of my colleagues from that appeared at the GetFit table before the race. I had no idea she was running the race, and we were both excited to see a familiar, friendly face. We stuck with each other for almost the whole race, which ended up being just what I needed… running with a new person made me not want to slow her down, so I pushed myself to keep going several times when I would have stopped had I been running alone. We only separated with about a half-mile to go, when she pulled off to the side of the road looking like she was going to lose her breakfast. She waved me on to keep going, which I felt torn about… I was running at a decent pace and looked to be close to meeting my goal time, so I didn’t want to stop, but I also didn’t want to abandon the poor girl on the side of the road! Luckily our 5-miler instructor appeared, having already finished the race and doubled back to see how her proteges were faring, and she ran to help my buddy, leaving me free to dash for the finish.

I was pretty stoked at this point – I had only stopped to walk ever so briefly at the first water stop (I managed to run through the second one and was able to drink and run without choking, which I was quite proud of!) and despite not being adequately prepared for running a 5-mile race, I was doing way better than expected. I even got a second wind as I neared the final quarter-mile… it helped to see one of my classmates ahead of me. I really hate when my competitive side rears its ugly head, but I had been the fastest runner in the class and did NOT want someone else to finish ahead of me [insert sheepish face here] so when I spotted the GetFit t-shirt in front of me I kicked into the next gear and flew past her, all the way to the finish line and to a finish time 1:30 faster than my goal time!! I was so giddy, and as a result my official finish line picture is me with a ridiculously goofy grin on my face. Yay!

The race itself was pretty okay. For my first race of the year and first race back from injury, I was chuffed at how well I did, but I’m not sure I’d run the CityRun again. It was certainly not flat (lies!!), and there were one or two places where the course was a little confusing and no volunteers or signs were present to help direct the runners. Also, while it was nice to run around Fresh Pond and not on the streets, the paths were still open to the public and were surprisingly packed with people out for Sunday morning walks with their dogs and strollers, making it a bit of an obstacle course. These things couldn’t really be helped, and to be fair, the registration fee was really low compared to other races I’ve done in Cambridge, so the lack of swag or frills or perfection is understandable. That said, I don’t think it’ll be a repeat race for me.

(One bonus that comes from writing this recap so long after the fact is that I know about the training run I did with the Shammies the week after the race, in which I beat my 5-mile time again! Woohoo!)

Have you ever had a race go surprisingly well despite injury or lack of training?

What’s your favorite distance to race?
I quite enjoyed the 5-mile distance!

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 –  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! 😀 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!

Old Wethersfield 10K, 24 August 2014

What: 10K (my first!)

Where: Wethersfield, Connecticut (course map)

Who: Me and Colin, with moral support from Drew

Benefited: InterCommunity

Time: 01:14:52 Automatic personal record!

Splits: (according to Simon, who clocked my final time as 01:13:54)
Mile 1: 11:53
Mile 2: 12:06
Mile 3: 11:55
Mile 4: 11:27
Mile 5: 12:16
Mile 6: 12:03
Mile 6.2: 3:38

Photos:

As I wrote about a month or so ago, I ran this race in honor/memory of my cousin Ashley. Here I model the shirt I made before the start.

As I wrote about a month or so ago, I ran this race in honor/memory of my cousin Ashley. Here I model the shirt I made before the start.

In an effort to soothe my splinty shins, I tried compression socks (to hold my legs together) and my new kicks (more cushioning)

In an effort to soothe my splinty shins, I tried compression socks (to hold my legs together) and my new kicks (more cushioning)

Colin and I start the race toward the back of the pack

Colin and I start the race toward the back of the pack. There were a lot of runners and the roads were pretty congested for the first lap.

By the second lap, however... Colin and I are the only lonely figures as we bring up the (almost) rear of the 10K pack

By the second lap, however… Colin and I are the only lonely figures in the distance as we bring up the (almost) rear of the 10K pack

I'm not sure what I was doing in this blurry picture... I think I was just happy to see Drew, who was the lone supporter on the streets at this point in the race

I’m not sure what I was doing in this blurry picture… I think I was just happy to see Drew, who was the lone supporter on the streets at this point in the race

After running 6 miles through residential streets, Wethersfield Cove was a picturesque sight as we neared the finish line

After running 6 miles through residential streets, Wethersfield Cove was a picturesque change of scenery as we neared the finish line

Drew caught us as our mini-pack approached the finish line. I'm just about to sprint past the lady in the orange, who had been in front of us the entire race. I still feel a little bad about beating her...

Drew caught us as our mini-pack approached the finish line. I’m just about to sprint past the lady in the orange, who had been in front of us the entire race. I still feel a little bad about beating her…

Breaking away from Colin (who's carrying all my stuff) and the mini-pack as I sprint towards the finish

Breaking away from Colin (who’s carrying all my stuff) and the mini-pack as I sprint towards the finish

Race swag. No bling, no goodies, just the shirt. (Orange slices and granola bars at the finish don't count as swag, right?)

Race swag. No bling, no goodies, just the shirt, which reminded me of Blackpool’s old kit, and which promptly unraveled after one wash. Boo.

Recap: Apparently I have a lot to say about this race… please bear with me, or feel free to stop now! (You can watch a short recap video about the race here.)

This was a race with a lot of build-up! I found the Old Wethersfield race back in February or March when I was looking for races that benefited mental health/addiction charities (like InterCommunity), and there was so much anticipation to running my first 10K that I started having stress dreams in the days before the race. After lots of support and encouragement from my fellow bloggers (thanks everyone! 🙂 ) I was able to calm down and race day arrived without too much panic. You can read about my experience tooling around Wethersfield the day before the race here.

The race was scheduled to start at 8:30am, so after a fabulous complimentary breakfast at our hotel – Hampton Inn Rocky Hill, which offered the best free breakfast I’ve ever seen at a hotel… at least in terms of what I want to eat before a race! – we headed over to Cove Park to pick up our bibs. The packet pickup area was super organized and fast; each volunteer had a computer to look up names, so we didn’t have to line up by last name or know our bib numbers beforehand. After getting our bibs – white for 5K and green for 10K – we were directed over to the t-shirt table to get our swag.

Colin and I did our warmups – some slightly-faster-than-our-slow-race-pace jogging and dynamic stretches – and then followed the sea of people to the starting line. There were (according to the results list) just under 500 people running the 5K and 615 running the 10K. We waited maybe 10-15 minutes for the starting gun, and during that time Colin was feeling like he should keep moving/stretching. He started doing a hip flexor stretch that a lady in front of us was doing and it looked like a good idea so I did it too – bad idea! I had never done that stretch before and have no idea if I was doing it properly, but I ended up – unbeknownst to me at the time – pulling my right hip flexor and and wrenching something in the left side of my lower back. Silly Dana… this is why we don’t do new things right before a race!!

Speaking of new things for a race… I went against protocol and was wearing new shoes and new socks, as well as a new shirt (but I wore another shirt under it that I had worn before). The shoe thing I didn’t think was too bad… I had worn them walking around the day before and already knew that they were shoes that would feel okay, and they did. I decided to debut my ProCompression socks in hopes that they would hold my shins together, and for the most part they were fine, minus a few blisters.

Anyway, back to the race. The 10K course was basically two laps of the 5K course and both races started together. Colin and I started near the back of the pack, so we ended up having to dodge around walkers (why do so many walkers always start so far up in the pack?!) as well as dodge the strollers that came tearing past us because they started at the very back and were so much faster than us. The first half-mile or so felt great… it felt awesome to be running again and my shins were behaving themselves. However, once I thought Hey, my shins feel okay! I totally jinxed myself and they both started hurting, especially righty. My right hip flexor hurt a bit too, so after being giddy about feeling great I was suddenly limping a bit and feeling dejected.

It was also incredibly humid. The temperature at start time was probably upper-60s or low-70s, but the humidity was high enough to make it feel completely miserable. I was covered in sweat very quickly, and was glad that I had grudgingly brought along my leak-prone hand-held water bottle. I mostly wanted it for the pouch, because I wanted to bring a pack of chews and my iPod along and didn’t have a pocket, but I ended up being thankful that I had some water when the aid stations seemed really far apart. (They weren’t really, but during stretches of running on sunny asphalt, they seemed miles away!)

Colin and I purposely ran slowly to ensure that we’d be able to complete the full 6.2 miles, and after averaging 10:30 for most race miles, the high 11s and low 12s seemed incredibly slow, and yet felt faster than I wanted to be moving! The first half of the race was rough with my shins and hip flexor protesting so much, and it was really tempting to veer off around Mile 2.5 to join the 5Kers. But we pressed on, taking the path less traveled as the 10Kers thinned out a lot by that point. As we rounded a corner to begin our second lap of the course, there were hardly any other runners around us, and the crowds had all left to go to the finish line. In a way it was nice, because we no longer had to dodge around people, and I put my iPod on sans headphones so that we could both listen to my running tunes.

Around the time we passed Drew, a little after the 3-mile mark, I suddenly realized that I felt okay again. My shins had abruptly stopped hurting, and my hip flexor only hurt sporadically. I also felt like I had all my energy back and that, coupled with realizing that I felt great, spurred me on to pick up the pace a little bit. Or maybe it was the music. Either way, I became sure that I’d be able to finish the 10K after having doubted it just a mile back. I’ve noticed during long runs and speed work that the workouts tend to get easier the longer I run, so maybe I’m not warming up properly and the painful beginning of this race was my warmup? Who knows, but it lifted my spirits to feel good again!

Even though I was feeling good once again, I realized that I had developed a sort of tunnel vision, or at least an intense focus. Maybe it was because we had already run one lap, but I stopped paying attention to all the pretty houses and scenery around us and just focused on staying in the rhythm I had found. I had planned to take a walk break at 1.5 miles, then 2, and by this point I wanted to keep running as long as possible.

I was so focused, in fact, that I totally forgot to eat my chews, which I had planned to do around the 5K mark. Oops! I didn’t realize until Mile 4.5 or so, where there was a water station, so I grabbed a Gatorade instead of water to get my electrolyte fix. I was hoping for the same jolt of energy I had experienced during the Old Port race when I accidentally grabbed Gatorade, but didn’t feel anything. And, now that my mind was tuned in to how my body felt, I felt my legs getting heavy so broke out my chews anyway (just a few). I was glad I did, because as we turned into the final mile, which was different than the course in the first lap, we were met with a hill that might have forced me to walk if I hadn’t refueled that little bit.

After the hill we only had a bit of road left, then we ran down towards Wethersfield Cove. It was so nice to be plunged into the shady park after so many sunny streets, but I did not like the sudden transition to trail from asphalt. To get to the trail, we took a very sharp turn onto grass, and both my ankles protested violently… whether about the turn or the change in surface, I don’t know. After a few feet on the grass we hit a gravel trail, which kind of felt nice after the roads, but also threw my legs for a loop after they had gotten used to so many miles on asphalt. The trail was quite narrow too, and the people around us who had seemed spread out were suddenly bunched into a tight little group, or mini-pack as I kept thinking of them.

At the end of 5Ks I usually have enough energy, depending on the race, to finish with a sprint, but I hadn’t expected that to happen in a 10K. However, maybe it was the last-minute fuel, but I wanted to finish fast, and the mini-pack clustered on the tiny trail was moving so much slower than I wanted. I started running like obnoxious tailgaters drive, getting a little closer than normal and weaving back and forth, looking for a way around, and when I spotted an opening I zoomed around everyone and took off, surprising Colin. I vaguely heard some cheers and clapping as I approached the finish line, and I pushed it with everything I had left and passed everyone who was in front of me.

I did it! I finished a 10K! I tried to stop but my legs needed to keep moving and I walked away from Colin and Drew like I was being remotely controlled and just kept going. I gratefully grabbed a water bottle that volunteers were handing out in the chute, and my legs carried me across the park over to the Dunkin’ Donuts booth to get a free sample of iced green tea. After guzzling the tea and some water in the shade (Drew and Colin had caught up by that point) we wandered over to the sponsor booths, hoping for some goodies. This was the downside of being slow and running the longer of 2 simultaneous races – all the 5K runners had finished, as well as the vast majority of 10K runners, so everything was picked over. There were some orange slices, a few tiny bits of bagel that had flies buzzing around them, and some fruit-and-nut bars that Colin tried and said were disgusting. Oh well.

Despite the slightly anti-climactic feel of the post-race festivities (no swag, not many snacks left), I will say that I loved how they had results set up. Instead of printing out the results and posting them somewhere with people all crowded around making it hard to see, they had left the registration computers out and cued up to the results database. All we had to do was punch in our bib number and our results were displayed on the screen. I was very happy with how the race was managed – it seemed very well organized and all the volunteers were great!

Speaking of great… I have to give so many props to Colin. He had run a 5K the day before, and could have backed out of running the 10K with me but he didn’t. He also gave me complete control over the race – we ran at my pace, he offered to stop with me if I needed to stop at any point, and he even offered to carry all my stuff at the end so that I could pose for the finish line cameras:

(I know, I know, reposting the proof is strictly prohibited. Maybe if it cost less than $15 to download one picture I'd consider it!)

(I know, I know, reposting the proof is strictly prohibited. Maybe if it cost less than $15 to download one picture I’d consider it!)

Colin told me later that he was mentally cursing me during the race because he really wanted to stop to walk but didn’t want to slow me down. He also didn’t pressure me to finish strong like he usually does; he knew this race meant a lot to me and was completely supportive and awesome the whole time. He’s also a total badass who ran 15K over the course of the weekend! Thank you for being the best running buddy ever, Colin 🙂

(I’m a terrible blogger and have no photos, but we did make another stop on our diner tour – we had brunch at a lovely little place in Wethersfield called the Aroma Bistro. They had bottled chocolate milk and lovely iced coffee, as well as specialty bagels that were delightful, especially the Dutch apple! I wanted to eat everything in the cafe – bagels, breakfast sandwiches, pastries – but somehow managed to control myself. I’d definitely go back if I ever found myself in Wethersfield again!)

So, to wrap-up this giant ramble, I’m quite pleased with my race experience! I’m chuffed to have finished a 10K, and to have run my longest distance – race or otherwise – to date, especially given that I didn’t have to walk except for a few seconds at a water stop. The Hartford Marathon Foundation put on a great race (though I was secretly disappointed that there was no bling to be had) and I’m glad I had the chance to explore such a cool New England town. It also felt good to support a cause like InterCommunity, though I was puzzled that they didn’t have a presence at the race at all (that I could find anyway, and I looked for them specifically). I do wish that I hadn’t tried that hip flexor stretch… there’s a knot the size of a fist lodged in my lower back, but other than the usual post-race soreness in my legs (and hatred of stairs) I feel great! No pain in my shins or anything. Huzzah!