Half-Marathon-by-the-Sea, 22 September 2019

What: Half marathon

Where: Manchester-by-the-Sea (and Hamilton), Massachusetts

Course Map:

Who: Me and Co-Worker J, with Drew, the Bairn, and J’s boyfriend for moral support

Time: 02:39:55

Splits: (according to Simon)
Mile 1: 10:49
Mile 2: 11:11
Mile 3: 11:35
Mile 4: 11:52
Mile 5: 11:32
Mile 6: 11:53
Mile 7: 11:50
Mile 8: 12:55
Mile 9: 12:59
Mile 10: 12:07
Mile 11: 12:10
Mile 12: 12:54
Mile 13: 13:13
Mile 13.1: 2:52

Race day finally happened! I feel like my training for this half was slightly more consistent than trainings past; training for my second half barely counts as training, and my first… I at least got up to 10 miles for my long runs, but don’t remember doing a lot of other running or cross-training (besides soccer and kickball). So I felt relatively ready!

Race day dawned bright and hot. Hotter than I was prepared for. The Worcester Running Festival Half was in late June and I knew it was going to be a scorcher, so at least I was mentally prepared. J and I liked the sound of this September race because we figured it would be coolish. (Cue climate change laughing in our faces.)

Bib pickup was pretty easy. We managed to snag one of the last spots in the parking lot on-site, and getting my bib and race shirt took no time at all. We could pick what size we wanted there, which was cool, and they had men’s and women’s sizes, which was also appreciated!

Another cool thing was the tiny playground near the start/finish, so the Bairn was chuffed and entertained while I pinned my bib, waited in portaloo lines, and posed for pics with other Shammies who were running the race:

J and I posed for more pics once she arrived too, and I have to say I’m partial to our nerdy librarian pics!

Our shirts say “librarians know how to book it!”

We lined up near the back of the pack, both agreeing that we’d take it easy and walk when either of us needed to. I’d originally wanted to try for a PR in this race, but due to a) the heat, b) my not feeling well thanks to an ill-timed visit from everyone’s favorite Auntie Flo, c) this being J’s first half, so I wanted to stick with her and be moral support – I changed my goal to just finishing and having fun. (And, let’s be honest about point C up there… the moral support totally went both ways!)

Being goofy and waving at Drew and the Bairn at the start

We cruised along pretty decently for the first few miles. It was hot, and we were both questioning why we signed up for this, but it was okay. We were going a little faster than I had started out in my other halves, and I worried a bit that I’d flag sooner and do a massive positive split, but tried to quiet the nerdy voice in my head and just run and see how it went.

The first mile or so was in the town center of Manchester-by-the-Sea, and was quite pleasant. After that, we ran a long stretch by the highway, and it felt pretty boring until we hit some pretty lakes. We kept the chatter up for the first half of the race or so, commenting on the scenery and whatever popped into our heads.

Several miles in, I started feeling like I had at least one blister forming. I had Body Glided the crap out of my toes before the race, but the heat and the fact that I didn’t wear the best socks in terms of blister prevention (love my Legend compression socks! But now I know they’re better suited to distances 10k and below for me… at least on hot days) combined to work against me. My toes hurt more and more as the race went on, and our faster-than-expected pace at the start began to catch up with me. Somewhere around mile 6 or 7 or something (it’s all a blur), I told J I might not be able to talk anymore because I needed to reserve my oxygen. I was trying so hard not to be done, but I wasn’t optimistic!

My “let this be done alreadyyyyy” grimace, taken at about the halfway mark

Interestingly, moments when I was wanting to quit, J was feeling decent and was a fantastic motivator. When J was hitting a wall, I had a second wind and was able to drag her along for a bit. We complemented each other nicely! However, by the last few miles, we were both just done and it was so hard to keep going. Honestly, the only thing preventing me from stopping was the fact that we had to get ourselves to the finish line somehow, so might as well keep running.

Double thumbs-down!

Closing in on the finish, we welcomed the sight of civilization once again as the desolate and boring roads were replaced with the town center, and our cheering crew! They were a sight to behold, as were the familiar sights near the finish… except that when we saw the finish line itself, we realized we had to run a big loop around to get to it, rather than the merciful straight line we both expected. J had it at that point, and we had to stop for a walk break. It was pretty disheartening, but once we rounded the curve we were able to run it in:

We finished in just shy of 2 minutes over my PR, which was really amazing considering the heat and my super painful feet, but also a little disheartening to be so close and not quite doing it. I kept thinking, if only I hadn’t taken that walk break… or that other walk break… or that other one… but really, given everything, it was a very good time. And we were both so happy to be done.

Our bibs came with beer tickets, but to be honest, I don’t even know where the beer was. There was some kind of after party, but not at the finish, and god knows my brain had melted and it was all I could do to remember to stretch and drink some water. Drew and the Bairn did take me out for ice cream at Captain Dusty’s afterward, and a sugar cone of my favorite White Russian Chip is better than beer any day!

So, to sum up, I’m pleased enough with my performance. It wasn’t ideal conditions for several reasons, and to come that close to my PR given all that is pretty great, even though I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t sad about missing a PR. Running a half with a friend is way better than running a half alone, PR or no PR!

The race itself… I didn’t love it. Even though the course map wasn’t a secret, I thought there’d be more “by the sea” than there was, and the course was desolate in places… though not as bad as the Worcester half. The course could have used another portaloo or two; there were 2 about 2-3 miles in, that we didn’t come back to until mile 11 or so (does that math add up?), and I could have used one more in the middle somewhere. The aid stations were okay, with two offering Gatorade as well as water, and one offering Honey Stinger gels. The race site made a big deal about free race photos, but J and I didn’t make it into any. Browsing through, it’s like the photographer took a few of the fast runners and then got bored and left to shoot spectators and police bikes. Not a huge deal, but kind of lame. I definitely thought Green Stride put on a better half in Newburyport, but I wouldn’t rule out doing another YuKan race in the future.

And hey, my inner map nerd is psyched to add two new towns to my maps! 🤓 So that’s something.

I did get all philosophical about half marathons and my running future – mostly inspired by the ghastliness that befell my toes during this race – but that’s a topic for another post, because this one is long enough as it is.

For now, I just have to heal my feet and pray I don’t lose any fitness I may have developed in the meantime, because Oxford looms! Stay tuned…

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HMBTS Training, Week 11

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I think we can officially say that this is the week the wheels fell off this training plan. At this point, we’ll just have to see how the race goes. I was originally going to try for a PR, but since a) I trained crappily and b) it’s supposed to be hot on race day, I’ve lowered my expectations and goals.

Monday

Rest | Rest

I took the Bairn to a Kindermusik class, and then we hit up one of his favorite playgrounds:

Anyone want to guess why this park is a favorite? 😉

Tuesday

5 mile run | 6.5 stroller run/walk

It was Election Day in my city (a primary), so I figured I’d work our traditional stroller walk to the polls into my workout. I popped the Bairn in the jogging stroller, we walked to the polls, then jogged to the pond and ran just over halfway, til we got to the bubblers. Then I took him on a detour to a rail trail for a quick out and back, then walked to a new playground, then home. There were a decent amount of walk breaks, and a long stop at the park, but all together we traveled just shy of 6.5 miles. Not too bad.

The Bairn rocking his “I voted” sticker and eating stroopwafel

Wednesday

Cross-training | Rest

Another Wednesday, another day of me not feeling like doing cross-training. Ho hum.

Thursday

Rest | Rest

Pretty run-of-the-mill rest day.

Friday

5 mile run | Rest

My FIL arrived for a visit Thursday night, and while I was working late, all the lads had a dinner out and the Bairn spent hours playing with his Baba. So he went to bed wicked late, meaning he slept in forever on Friday, meaning I had no time to squeak in a run before work. (I mean, I could have woken him up, but he was so cozy and needed the rest!) Which is too bad, because the weather was nice and cool and a run would have felt great!

Saturday

60 mins cross-training | Rest

At this point in the training plan, why even pretend that I’m going to cross-train?? I took the Bairn to his first soccer practice:

Most of the practice was spent doing this, or climbing the nearby bleachers. Toddlers gonna toddler.

Then met a Shammie friend for an afternoon beer, then went out for a nice anniversary dinner with Drew.

Sunday

10 mile run | 5k race

Sunday was the 5th race in the RAW Series, the Shoppers Cafe 5k. I arrived at the race a wee bit hungover from Shammie day drinking / wine at dinner / fancy post-dinner cocktail / a general refusal to drink water during all that, and it was in the upper-70s/lower-80s at race time, so I didn’t have high hopes.

I ran with some friends, and we ended up starting a bit higher up in the pack than we intended to (the start wasn’t very well organized), and one friend who usually runs a bit slower than I do took off like a bat out of hell and was cruising along between an 8:45 and 9 pace. I was just trying to keep her in my sights, then somehow ended up passing her when she started to lose a bit of steam. I lost steam as well – no surprise – but made it a strong 2 miles before stopping for water.

After that it was a woozy run-walk to the finish… until the very last bit. For the last half-mile or so, I was randomly on my own without other runners around me. Little did I know a dude was creeping up on me quietly, and when I rounded the final corner he tried to squeak past me on the inside. Nope!

I didn’t think I had anything left in me, but I wasn’t going to let some guy edge past me out of nowhere and beat me. (Who me? Competitive?) I turned the jets on and sprinted to the finish, with a finish time of 30:05… less than 30 seconds off my PR! I was not expecting that, not with the heat and my hangover. (I’d had vague plans of adding some miles onto this race to fit better with my training plan, but said heat and hangover – and how much I pushed myself in the race – made that not seem like a winning idea.)

So, even though I didn’t make it through my training plan for this half, I’m at least going into the race feeling somewhat confident in myself. I made it further in my training plan than I did for either of my other two halves, and I’ve been consistently surprising myself in races this year. I may not be doing as much intentional cross-training as I should, but honestly… I pick the Bairn up multiple times a day and sometimes even do squats (“Mummy pick up my car? No Mummy, keep holding me and pick up car!”) Stroller running’s got to be some kind of cross-training too. So maybe I’m not in as bad shape for this half as I think I am. We shall see in less than a week!

RAW Series: The Halfway Point

(…well, maybe a little past the halfway point by now, but let’s go with it, shall we?)

I’m a bit of a sucker for a good race series, especially if there is special swag involved. Back when I was still pretty new to running, I did (most) of the Let’s Run, Have Some Fun, and Be Fit series in Cambridge, which looks way cooler this year than when I ran it! I ended up not completing the series, but still got the series swag (a jacket!) because a friend ended up getting one that was too small. Score!

Then, I actually completed the Tour de Worcester in my home city, which was more fun than the Cambridge one. The Let’s Run series was 5 races of the same course… so it was cool to see how I improved over time, but the course got a bit boring. The Tour de Worcester was 3 different races in different parts of the city, which I liked. The swag was a nice beanie, which I still wear on cold runs.

Well, it’s been 5 years, but I’m in the midst of my third series, the RAW Series:

This one is a 6-race series, and like the Tour, it’s 6 different races in different parts of the city. A woman in my run club did it a year or two ago and got a sweet jacket as swag, so I was intrigued! Plus, Waltham is a cool city with lots of history (*history nerd klaxon*) so I signed up quick.

The first three races were back in April and May, and the next one is in September. I appreciate the summer hiatus, especially since it’s been so hot! Here is a quick recap of the first three:

JB Blastoff 5K, April 7, 29:38

AKA the 5k when I finally broke 30:00!!

Just thinking of this race makes me wistful for running weather that’s cloudy and in the 50s!! The JB was a mostly flat race through residential neighborhoods, and to be honest, I don’t remember much about it at this point. I should have written the recap way earlier, but… alas. My post about breaking 30 will have to do. I do remember that I started further up the pack than usual, since the first stretch was on a busy road not blocked to traffic, so the course was very narrow and I didn’t want to get stuck. I remember it being a decent race, with access to real bathrooms at a restaurant pre-race and what sounded like a cool after-party that I did not attend.

Moody St 5K, May 5, 31:51

I ran this race with some friends, who all happen to be librarians! We may have nerded out and gotten some matching t-shirts to wear that said “librarians know how to book it” 🤓

This was a fun race. There were sponsor booths with giveaways and treats, and a big Zumba warmup in the street before the starting gun. Moody St is one of the main thoroughfares in Waltham, so only part of it was closed to traffic (the rest was down to one lane). The course cut through some residential streets until hitting a path along the Charles River. That path went behind the looming Waltham Watch factory, which pleased my inner history nerd.

I would have come very close to breaking 30:00 again in this race if the running buddy I was with hadn’t had a losing-her-breakfast situation around the Mile 2 mark. I stopped nearby (afraid that if I got too close, I, too, would lose my breakfast) to make sure she was okay, until another of our pack of librarian friends came by and told my slightly green self to run away. Even with that diversion, I made great time and was pleased! Again there was an after-party, and again we didn’t attend.

St. Jude School 5K, May 18, 33:45

Attempted selfie with a toddler…

Unlike the first two races, Drew wasn’t around to Bairn-wrangle, so I popped the wee lad in the jogging stroller and took him with me. It was a warmer day than the previous RAW races, but still not too bad. The course was mostly on leafy residential streets, and took us by a farm and under a train bridge, both of which the Bairn loved.

This was also a very family-friendly race, as it was benefitting a K-8 school; lots of kids running and parents with strollers. This made for a fun after-party too, complete with a playground and free giant Italian ices! The Bairn had never had Italian ice before this, and he was an instant convert. There was also a misting tent, which was appreciated:

Thoughts So Far

The RAW Series has been great! I enjoyed the first three races, and was pleased with my times in each. We’ll see how the next ones go, since they’re coming up and it’s still hot and gross. Plus, the next one is basically up a mountain, so… yeah. I have a feeling I won’t do as well in the second half!

This series is different from the others I did in that there’s a scoring system, based on how you perform at each race. The top male and female runners get special prizes (I think) or at least bragging rights.

I’m looking forward to the second half, even if I don’t think my times will compare to the first half. Two of the races are trail races (or maybe one trail and one hybrid?) which will be different, and hopefully a cool change from the baking asphalt.

I’m also dying to find out what this year’s swag will be! #priorities

Hopefully my write-up of the second half won’t be as delayed as this one…

Have you run any race series? Do you prefer them to feature the same course over and over, or to change it up?

Samantha’s Harvest 5K, 9 June 2019

Hi there! How in the heck is it June already?! I am way behind with race recaps… I’ve run 5 already this year (I’m back, baby!) and have written up exactly 0. Until now. Please excuse the lack of chronological order and maybe someday I’ll get my blogging act back together again.

Let’s press on, shall we?

Samantha’s Harvest 5k

What: 5K

Where: Reading, Massachusetts (course map)

Who: Me and the Bairn and a bunch of Shammies

Benefited: Samantha’s Harvest

Time: 32:50 Stroller PR!

Splits*:
-Mile 1: 10:38
-Mile 2: 10:33
-Mile 3: 11:03
-Mile 3.1: 1:08

*I forgot to stop my Garmin until I’d been across for a while, so my Garmin splits don’t add up to my official time

Background

I ran this race last year as my first stroller run ever with the Bairn (you can read the recap here). It was a decent race, supporting a good cause, and it was fun to hang with the Shammies, but I wasn’t planning on running it again this year. It just felt like a once-and-done experience. But, a Shammie who’s a new mom said she might be there with her new wee Shammie, plus the club pays our race fees, and it would be something to do while Drew played soccer that morning… so I thought what the heck and signed up. (Spoiler alert: I didn’t get to meet the newest Shammie, but it was still a good time!)

Pre-race

Much like last year, Drew had a soccer game at the same time as the race, so the Bairn and I hopped in the car and drove to Reading. Sam’s Harvest is a relatively small race, so there’s plenty of parking on-site and bib pickup is fast and easy.

In lieu of warming up like I should have, I made the rounds with the Shammies for the obligatory cooing over/getting high fives from the Bairn and “OMG he’s twice the size he was since I last saw him!” comments. I also wrestled the Bairn in and out of his stroller a few times because toddlers gonna toddler.

The Race

The field felt a lot smaller this year… potentially because the race started an hour earlier than in years past and that fact wasn’t heavily advertised. There were a bunch of runners with strollers last year, but I was one of only two this time around.

The Bairn and I started near the back and were on our own, as all the Shammies running this year were speedy and off winning their age groups.

I don’t remember there being so many hills last year – oof! Otherwise the course was wonderfully shady and on pleasant residential back roads. There were two water stops and both had ice-cold water, which was glorious! Every other race I’ve done so far this year had water that was vaguely cool at best, so the icy hydration felt even more amazing on this hot morning.

Another nice thing about the course being on all residential streets is that several families were out on their front lawns cheering on the runners. The best moment of my race was when I ran by a mom sitting on a blanket with her baby, who looked maybe 10 or 11 months old, and the mom excitedly pointed at the Bairn and said to her wee one “there’s a kid like you! Oh wow, they’re running with a stroller!” Then she looked at me and said “That is so awesome! I’m so proud of you!!” This happened between miles 2 and 3 when I was struggling a bit, and her words totally lifted me for the rest of the race. I feel like you hear so much about moms judging each other these days, and I tend to feel self-conscious a lot about what other moms might be thinking, so to hear such sincere praise from another mom meant so much!

The second best part of my race was as I neared the finish. Like last year I was the last Shammie on the course, and as I came down the hill toward the track where the finish line is, a bunch of Shammies were walking toward me as they headed off for a cool-down run. They all started cheering when they saw me and I reached out for a high-five and ended up high-fiving almost all of them. It felt like running a half-gauntlet of awesomeness!

As we turned onto the track and came down the final straightaway, the rest of the Shammies were clustered by the finish line, cheering. I saw one of them with his phone out for pictures and jokingly flexed, and then made a silly excited face, which got caught on camera:

I was also excited because both my Garmin and the ever-nearer finish line clock both said 32:–, which would not only be a solid 6 minutes faster than last year’s time, but also a PR for me in terms of stroller races. I was pumped!

Post-race

After I crossed the finish and the nice timing person ripped off the bottom of my bib and a nice volunteer handed me an icy, full-size bottle of water (seriously, this race does hydration RIGHT), all I wanted to do was lay down in the shade for a few hours. I was hot and red and probably dehydrated, and had pushed myself harder in this race than I planned to, so I was a bit wobbly. I pushed the Bairn over to some shade, ignoring his protests about wanting to come out and walk around, and plopped down gracelessly to chug water.

After the initial I-might-faint feeling, I felt awesome! I was still feeling pumped from both the nice mom and the Shammies high fives, and was totally chuffed about my time. It blows my mind a little that I’m finishing races faster pushing a toddler in a stroller than I was in most of my pre-Bairn races. I think it’s a combination of mom-strength (hefting an ever-growing child is my answer to weight-lifting and core work, I guess!) and ~cheesy alert~ believing in myself. The more I run faster, the more I know I can do it, and the more I push myself to keep it up. If I can be arsed, I may ramble on about these thoughts in another post. Someday. Maybe.

Anyway, back to post-race. The Bairn and I joined the rest of the Shammies, who were gathering by the leftover donuts in the shade by the registration area. We snacked on some donuts and stretched, and the Bairn joined in clapping for the award winners. We took a club photo:

And then everyone sort of trickled to their cars and left. Not a lot of fanfare or post-race partying, which was fine as I wouldn’t have been able to join in much anyway! The Bairn and I drove home, stopped for some iced coffee, and then repeated last year’s recovery: relaxing in the shade of our yard with a water table:

While I assumed Sam’s Harvest was a one-time race, it’s turning out to be a fun start-of-summer tradition. I wonder how many more years I’ll be pushing the Bairn? Maybe he’ll even run with me in a few!

Samantha’s Harvest 5K, 10 June 2018

What: 5K

Where: Reading, Massachusetts (course map)

Who: Me and the Bairn (his first race outside of the womb!) and a ton of Shammies

Benefited: Samantha’s Harvest

Time: 38:09

Splits:
-Mile 1: 11:08
-Mile 2: 12:44
-Mile 3: 13:18
-Mile 3.1: 1:15

Background:

I’d been wanting to run this race for a few years. It’s one that always has a big Shammie representation, it’s in a town I hadn’t run in before (see my race maps which badly need updating!), and it benefits a great charity. Unfortunately, it almost always falls on the same day as the Worcester Firefighters 6K… until 2018, that is! (Dang, this recap is waaayyyy overdue.)

Pre-race:

Drew had a soccer game at the same time as the race, so I didn’t have my usual personal cheering squad. Feeling like part of an especially sporty family, I loaded the Bairn and the jogging stroller into the car and set off for Reading High School. By the time we got there, there was already a sizeable Shammie crowd; I don’t often show up at races alone, so it was nice to be met with so many familiar faces! Bib pickup was super easy, and the Bairn and I milled around and socialized a bit before gun time. (Warmup? What warmup?) After a quick Shammies group photo:

samsharvest

Shammies representing

all the runners were led off the high school campus to a cul-de-sac, where the race started.

The race:

The Bairn and I brought up the rear as the gun went off, and Shammie E kept us company for the first half-mile or so, until I just couldn’t keep up anymore. (Those of you who’ve read this blog before may remember Shammie E, who kept Fetus Bairn (is that too weird of a name?) and I company at the Beach 2 Beacon 10K!) This was my first time ever pushing the jogging stroller while running, and I wasn’t even really in 5K, non-stroller-pushing shape to begin with, so I was content to run as slowly as I needed and take walk breaks whenever. I didn’t want to hold E back, so we waved goodbye as she sped off.

The road guards for this race were mostly high school students, and they did a great job (for the most part). There was one confusing intersection where the Bairn and I took off up a hill, because one road guard gestured in that direction as his friend was texting someone, and then the friend looked up and yelled at us that we were going the wrong way. Eh, it wasn’t like I was gunning for a PR or anything, right? I was only mildly annoyed because the hill was so frikkin’ steep!

Honestly, I don’t remember too much else about the race, which I guess is unsurprising as it’s now almost 9 months later and I’ve got a bad case of Toddler Brain (like Pregnancy Brain, except it’s accompanied by a ball of energy who throws tantrums at the drop of a hat). I do remember being excited to see the high school track, where the finish line was, and hearing a random Shammie yell “Yay, go Shammie!!” at me.

When I saw 38:something on the clock as I crossed the finish, I had a teeny pang of disappointment as my competitive-with-myself part of my brain was upset I hadn’t miraculously PR’d. Mostly, though, I was chuffed that I finished in under 40 minutes, considering I was doing my first-ever stroller run on an unfamiliar course when it was kind of hot!

Post-race:

I freed the Bairn from his stroller and let him wander around a little. He mostly wanted to escape the fenced-in track area to explore the open fields, but I was trying to chug water and focus on making my face less red. Several people complimented his “crawl walk run” shirt, which he wore special for race day.

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A partial view of the Bairn’s race day shirt. You can also see his blurry wee hand as he spins the stroller wheel

Post-race activities seemed pretty low-key. Awards were given to overall and age group winners (the Shammies cleaned up nearly every category), then people just kind of dispersed. I may have been so distracted by Bairn wrangling that I didn’t hear any announcements, but that’s just as well. I did notice some Shammies enjoying post-race beverages in the parking lot, which would have been fun to join in if I hadn’t been a) lugging a Bairn and b) driving said Bairn home.

Once home, I did luxuriate for a while in the shady part of our backyard while the Bairn played with his water table:

watertable

It was a cool experience running with the Bairn (even cooler than running with him in-utero, because we got to chat and I could see him sitting up and taking everything in), and something I’d love to do more. I did manage one more stroller run last summer, but it was *such* a crazy hot summer that I opted for slow stroller walks with iced coffee way more often. Here’s hoping the snow and ice melts soon so we can hit the pavement together again!

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!

 

Fort Hill Brewery 5K, 15 April 2018

What: 5K

Where: Easthampton, Massachusetts (course map)

Who: Just me, with moral support from Drew (and two Shammies running the half)

Benefited: Easthampton High School’s track and cross country programs

Time: 32:39

Splits:
-Mile 1: 10:13
-Mile 2: 10:47
-Mile 3: 10:33
-Mile 3.1: 01:17

Recap:

This was my first race post-Bairn! I originally signed up for the half marathon back in November, but after training went awry, I switched my registration to the 5K and am quite pleased with how it all played out. Especially because we got a fun weekend of travel out of the deal!

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Fort Hill Brewery*

Bib pickup happened the day before at a fitness studio in nearby Hadley, and was super easy and quick. I had signed up early enough to get a free shirt, which was a tech shirt with gender-specific sizing – always a plus! There was also bib pickup the morning of, but as we were out and about with the Bairn the day before anyway, it seemed prudent to get it done with.

The race itself was held at and around the Fort Hill Brewery in Easthampton, with parking onsite, on a nearby street, and at a community center next door. The brewery looked like an old farmhouse near Mount Tom (which you can see peeking out on the left of the above photo), and felt very picturesque.

We arrived just before the half marathon runners took off at 10am, and we took shelter in the brewery as we waited for the 10:30 start for the 5K. In addition to not feeling trained or physically ready at all for a half marathon, the fact that it was in the low 30s (with wind chill making it feel like the 20s) with freezing rain in the forecast made me even happier I had dropped to the shorter distance! It was awesome having the brewery to shelter in, especially since I had a Bairn in tow.

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

Checking out the ambulance with the Bairn, pre-race

A little before 10:30 the runners were summoned down to the starting line. It was frikkin’ freezing, guys. I’ve run in colder temps, but it had been quite a while, and my body was not happy with me for making it hang out in, and warm up in, such conditions. I did some half-hearted warmup jogs and dynamic stretching, then stood shivering with the rest of the 95 runners as we waited for the start.

We got some directional instructions before the start, as well as a reminder to take deep breaths and be in the moment, then the starting gun went off and we were away running. I started near the back of the pack, and had intentions of taking it pretty easy, but I was so cold that I found myself running faster than planned just to try to warm up. Also, my recent training runs have all started out fast, so I think that’s just what my body was used to.

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Before the 5K start*

Maybe halfway through the first mile I checked Simon Mark II and saw I was chugging along at a 9:– something pace. I knew that wasn’t sustainable, but I was feeling okay, so I picked a runner near me who was wearing a sparkly skirt and decided to try to pace her. I managed to stay with her until the water stop just before Mile 2, when I took the opportunity to walk as I drank and she ran out of sight. While I was disappointed to see my pacer disappear into the horizon, I was pretty pleased that I had made it nearly 2 miles without needing a walk break.

The water stop was the last(ish) part of the race that was on roads – until then we had been running mostly residential roads near the brewery. After the water stop we turned onto the Manhan Rail Trail, which was beautifully paved (no potholes or rough patches like on the roads!) and which looked like it would be such a cool trail to have at one’s disposal. Not long after hitting the trail we passed behind an old, run-down mill building and I wanted to stop to take a picture… but I didn’t want to stop, as I had just started running again. So I wrestled with my ArmPocket to get my phone, and took a shot of the creepy-looking water tower attached to the mill:

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It didn’t come out great, but it was cool-looking in person, I promise

I had been leapfrogging the guy in the blue hoodie in that photo, and at the time of the picture I had pretty much given up hope that I’d catch him again. The arm at the very far left of the photo was a lady I ended up chatting briefly with (we commented on the not-so-pleasant smell of some kind of factory or stream we ran past) before awkwardly passing her when I got my second wind.

Since I hadn’t warmed up properly, my first mile in this race was pretty much a warmup… as in I couldn’t feel my legs because they were so cold, and they didn’t warm up until the first mile had ticked by. I struggled a bit for the second mile… likely because I wasn’t hydrated (I am me, after all)… but then after taking that walk/water break, I had a few minutes and then BOOM my second wind appeared. I’ve written before about races where I’ve felt like I turn into a machine at the end, and that happened again in this race. Once I passed that lady, I felt like I couldn’t stop or slow down if I wanted to.

I got to a point on the trail where I recognized the community center that’s next to the brewery, and I knew I was almost done. I had about a half-mile to go, but I ate that half-mile for breakfast. My jets turned on and while I didn’t sprint, I did pick up speed, and I felt strong. I even caught up to and passed Blue Hoodie, and left him in my dust. I picked off a few more people as the trail ended and we turned onto the road that leads to the brewery.

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

Cresting the last hill

The very last bit of the race was a cruel uphill to the finish line, but I ate that hill for second breakfast. Maybe I was just so excited to be done, or maybe I had energy stores galore from the breakfast sandwich and tasty coffee I’d had before the race (ordinarily I don’t eat that much or drink coffee before races), but I tore up that hill, waved excitedly at Drew and the Bairn who were waiting for me near the finish, and crossed the line with a much faster time than I had expected.

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Done!*

As a bonus, a race volunteer placed a medal around my neck after I crossed the finish line (according to all the race info, only half finishers were going to get medals, so bonus bling was awesome!), I grabbed a banana, and wobbled off to find Drew and the Bairn. I was well chuffed with my race, especially the last third or so, and also very glad that I didn’t have 10 more miles to run! The 5K was the right choice for me this time for sure.

We hung out in the brewery for a bit so I could warm up and guzzle some water, then we opted to leave early and skip the post-race party. The brewery was going to be serving beer, a local pizza place was already handing out slices to the runners (I think I’ve written before that I have a hard time with “real” food right after a race, especially things like pizza), and a DJ was ready to spin some tracks, but bad planning on my part meant we had no Airbnb to return to and a long ride home with a tired Bairn, so we bolted. The party pics on Facebook make it look like it was a fun time though!

Even though it wasn’t the half marathon I had planned on running, I’m glad I dropped down to the shorter distance. My training runs had gotten up to 5 miles so I knew I could grind out 3.1, and knowing my family wasn’t killing a long time in the cold eased me of guilt. I ended up feeling strong and finishing faster than expected, so I’d say it was a pretty successful return to the world of road races!

And I’m already putting feelers out for my next race…

*Photos with asterisks by Donna Gulow*