Worcester Running Festival Half Marathon, 19 June 2016

What: Half marathon

Where: Worcester, Massachusetts

Course Map:

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Who: Just me, with moral support from Drew

Time: 02:42:50

Splits: (according to Simon)
Mile 1: 11:21
Mile 2: 12:33
Mile 3: 13:25
Mile 4: 11:57
Mile 5: 12:12
Mile 6: 12:22
Mile 7: 12:42
Mile 8: 12:45
Mile 9: 13:16
Mile 10: 13:14
Mile 11: 12:39
Mile 12: 11:25
Mile 13: 11:18
Mile 13.1: 1:59

To read a nitty-gritty race-specific recap, check out my review on BibRave!

To read about my pre-race (mis)adventures and neuroses, check out my last post.

Quick background: This was my second half marathon, and I didn’t train properly at all. My longest training run for it was a mere 5 miles, and the farthest I’d run in 2016 was a 10K. So it’s fair to say I was a little nervous going into this race!

I was grateful that I had splurged on a hotel room close to the start, because not only did it mean extra sleep before the 7am start, but it also meant I didn’t have to suffer the porta-potty SNAFU that happened before the race. Rumor had it the porta-potty delivery man got lost on the way to the race, and there were no porta-potties on-site until right before the race started. Oops! They opened up City Hall so the runners could use the bathrooms in there, but I heard there weren’t many stalls, so the line was ridiculous. It ended up delaying the race start by 10 minutes, as the race director wanted everyone to have a chance to use the loo if they needed.

At last everyone was gathered at the start, and after Beyonce sang the national anthem (recorded, unfortunately… would have been ridiculously awesome if she had been there!) we were under way.

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Eventual winner leading the pack on the left.

It was forecast to be about 87* F (30.5 C) by 11am, so I was also grateful for the early start! It was in the low 60s at start time, and I was almost a little chilly in my minimalist kit. I wasn’t complaining!

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As usual, being goofy after crossing the start.

In addition to my run club singlet, I was rocking my Under Armour shorts that are so light and cool that they feel like they’re not even there… only without the awkward naked feeling. I love them.

I was also trying out an EnduraCool multi-cool thingie (the wicked bright orange scarf thing around my neck), which one of my Shammie friends had been raving about in recent weeks. Knowing how terrible I am in the heat, I liked the idea of having a cool thing to put against the back of my neck to keep my temp down. It was a little awkward and floppy, and the part against my skin warmed up pretty quickly, but all it took was a quick adjustment and it was cool again. Plus, when kindly locals were handing out ice along the course, it was a perfect place to store it, and kept it from melting for way longer than I expected. That was pretty sweet.

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Is that an excited smile, or a grimace-smile trying to mask my worry?

The first mile was through downtown and had a nice downhill section, and I was feeling pretty good. Mile 2 was also decent, and had some shady bits near Elm Park which were nice.

My plan going in to the race (or, at least the one I sort of came up with as I ran the first mile and realized I should have a plan) was to stop every mile to have a short walk break and a chew, and to take water at every water stop, along with another walk break. Also, I told myself it was totally okay to walk anytime I started feeling even a little bit fainty… having not trained, and knowing how hot and hilly this race would be, I knew I wouldn’t be gunning for a PR. My only goals were a) to finish, however long it took, and b) to stay conscious, even if it meant walking slowly for most of the race.

There were a good number of runners near me for the first 2.5 miles, and I was leapfrogging with several who were also run-walking. One of my worries going in was that I’d be the only run-walker and that I’d finish last, but that worry was completely unfounded. And anyway, there’s no shame in finishing last… I’ve done it before!

The feel of the race changed a bit between miles 2 and 3, when I hit The Hill. Worcester is known for its hills, and I knew going in that at least one of its famous hills would be part of the course. Thankfully the hill came early in the race… at first I was annoyed that I hit it so early, but then I tried to think about how much worse it would have been if The Hill had happened in Mile 12! Yeesh.

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Google Street View of the start of The Hill. Notice the lovely shade and an example of the giant houses that line the street!

Against my better judgment, I tried to run The Hill. Slowly, but still. Maybe it was all the hills I ended up accidentally scaling during my training runs, but it didn’t feel too bad, at least for a while. I made it maybe halfway or 2/3 of the way up before I needed to walk the rest, and that was enough to put me in front of all the runners I’d been leapfrogging. I ended up being on my own for a few miles starting at this point, which was a weird sensation. Especially when I’d come upon a turn without obvious course markers and had to cross my fingers that I was going the right way.

Luckily The Hill was shady and populated with giant, gorgeous houses that I could look at and distract myself with. And, when I got to the top, there was a small group of people with cowbells cheering me on, offering high-fives, and shouting “You’ve beaten the hill! That’s the worst part of the race!” That was awesome!

The next mile consisted of winding my way downhill through quiet, shaded neighborhoods. I liked the downhills, but it was a bit boring and lonely for that stretch. That is, until I took a walk break and a guy came out of nowhere to pass me, yelling “Pretty far from the pond, eh?” and pointing at my singlet. I was silent with confusion for a second or two, then he yelled “You’ve been pacing me this whole race so far! Keep it up!” and took off. Turns out he was the only other runner from my city in the race, and – as I found out later when I caught up with him – he does most of his running at my favorite pond path. Small world!

The next mile was pretty uneventful, except for the sparkliest water stop I’ve ever seen. There were tables on both sides of the street (this part was out-and-back, so the lead runners were starting to pass me going the other way) that were decorated with shiny streamers, and people were ringing cowbells and cheering. One lady had a giant bucket full of ice, and I took some to tuck into my EnduraCool, where they melted slowly and kept me cool for a few miles. One of the neighbors had his sprinkler going for us, too. I loved these people.

At the end of this street, just before Mile 6, we turned onto Mill Street for my least favorite stretch of the race. We ran right on Mill St. for a while, then turned around and ran the other way for a long time, then turned around and ran back. For nearly four miles we were on an endless, nearly shadeless, stretch of road that had nothing to look at along it. Well, at one point there was a pond with a little beach, but that was it. It was all woods, fields, and abandoned-looking buildings, with a few houses in the middle bit. It was bleak. Some of my slowest miles happened along this stretch, and I walked a lot. It was also open to traffic, and cars were coming awfully close to our narrow little coned-off running section. I didn’t love it.

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A particularly bleak stretch of Mill St., courtesy of Google Street View.

The only bright spots along this stretch were 1) the aid station that had Honey Stinger gels, and 2) my pond-runner buddy. I caught up to him early on during this stretch, when he was walking. He grinned and said “welcome back!” and we chatted for a bit as I took a welcome walk break with him. Turns out we had both missed the race last year and had taken the deferment, but then neither of us had trained beforehand, him due to injury and me due to, well, me being me. We ended up leapfrogging each other a few more times, each time shouting encouragement to each other. That definitely helped me get through the Mill St. stretch!

My chews ran out at Mile 9, and I stopped at Mile 10 to take the gel I picked up at the aid station. I’d never had a gel before – chews have always been my fuel of choice – and wow. (I know, I know… never do anything new on race day.) I should have taken it near a water stop because I almost choked on its sweetness and it made my mouth so sticky. But, it also gave me a serious kick start; once I started running again after taking it, my legs didn’t feel as tired and my energy levels definitely went up. It was like a miracle gel. Cheers, Honey Stinger!

The rest of the race from there was a repeat of earlier bits of the race, so I had an idea of the terrain and knew how many more water stops there’d be. Other than those water stops, I ran (and somehow negative-split) the last 5K. I think I just really wanted to be done running at that point!

As I got to the last .1, I kicked it as hard as I could without wanting to faint. I turned the last corner and spotted Drew, making sure to make another goofy face at him:

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Plenty of porta-potties by this point!

I have a memory of smiling big at the photographer at the finish line, but my picture says otherwise:

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Sigh. I made this pic small because it’s much too terrible to look at larger.

I was handed a bottle of water and a medal immediately after crossing the finish (yessss!), wandered off to some shade, and tried to stretch. My legs were so wobbly. Drew found me, and together we waited for my race buddy to cross the finish so we could cheer for him. Then I wobbled off to find a snack – there was plenty of pizza (at 10am, ugh) and a handful of bananas left, so I grabbed a banana before attempting stretching again. I also posed for a hometown pride photo:

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Wormtown represent!

…then wobbled off back to the hotel for ice cold water, a protein shake, and a much-needed shower. I had finished! And, somehow, despite the heat, the hills, and the lack of training, my finishing time was only 5 minutes slower than my other half, which was run on a cool day in October on a flat course. Not too shabby!! However, despite pulling off a surprisingly decent race, I think next time I’ll make sure I train. And… maybe no more summer halfs. I think one was good enough.

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Half Marathon #2: The Build-Up

Hi there! Remember me? Apologies yet again for abandoning the blog for a bit… I know I’m overdue for a recap of the Worcester Running Festival Half (spoiler alert: I finished!!), and I have a large handful of other posts I’ve been meaning to write. It’s my same old excuse, but life and work have been crazy, leaving me not much time or mental energy to write. But a long weekend is upon us and hopefully I can get back in the swing of things!

I started drafting a race recap for the half, but found that I was rambling on a LOT about the build up and pre-race stuff. So instead of deleting it (my first instinct) or posting one honkin’ long race recap, I decided to break it in two. And so… let’s get on with the rambling, shall we?

logo_worcOnce upon a time I signed up for the Worcester Running Festival half marathon, both as a fit of hometown pride and as a goal to work toward. Then I injured my knee and grudgingly dropped to the 5k option, and then the race was postponed due to lightening. Since I was going to be out of town on the make-up day, I took the waiver they offered to run it the following year, and bumped back up to the half in expectation that I could be properly trained by then. Again, it would be a great goal to work toward.

Well, that year has come and gone, and this is my story.

As you’ll know if you’ve been reading my blog or following me on Instagram these past few weeks, I was freaking out a bit before this race because, well, I hadn’t trained properly [sad trombone]. I had only got up to 5 miles in my training runs, and the farthest I had run all year was a 10k. I was vastly unprepared.

Add to that anxiety about being under-trained the fact that the forecast for race day was upper 80s and sunny, and I was dreading things. My first and only half marathon was run in October when it was a crisp 50s with cloud cover (perfect running weather!) and I’ve run no more than 5k or so when it’s been wicked hot, so I was nervous. I don’t usually do well in the heat!

Appealing to the camerawoman for help during one of my hottest races to date

Appealing to the camerawoman for help during one of my hottest races to date

Maybe the smart thing would have been to drop to the 5k once again, or just not do it at all, but I was already registered, darn it, and I couldn’t bring myself to have yet another DNS on record, so in spite of my anxiety I was determined.

The Day Before

The race started bright and early at 7am, so I splurged and booked us a room in a hotel that’s a 5-minute walk from the starting line. I spent the first part of the day before packing and trying to make sure I remembered everything, then I accompanied Drew on a work errand before making a quick stop at my work to pick up the earbuds I had forgotten. (I’ve never listened to music during a race, but I knew I’d need all the help I could get at this race!)

Earbuds in hand, we set off westward for Worcester… only to get a good ways down the Pike before I remembered that I had forgotten – of all things – my running shoes. Seriously, how did I forget those??

I'm not cut out for this. I need my kicks! (source)

I’m not cut out for this. I need my kicks! (source)

Another detour home to grab the shoes and we were once again on our way. We managed to just get to Sneakerama in time for me to pick up my bib (anything to buy me 5 extra minutes of sleep the next morning!). I was the only one there, and got my bib, shirt, and a few coupons within a minute. I even got a friendly reminder from the race director to set an alarm for the next day.

We checked in to the hotel, and I realized that I hadn’t grabbed any breakfast for pre-race… just a Honey Stinger waffle. I felt like I could use something more substantial for a half, so we went across the street to the convenient store to pick up Honey Nut Cheerios, a protein bar, a giant bottle of water… and a pack of mini-donuts and a protein shake for post-race recovery. And Polar orange dry, because we were in Worcester and you kind of have to rock the Polar when you’re there (and anyway, orange dry is my love!)

Pre-race dinner

Pre-race dinner

We picked up some takeout pasta from a local Italian place – fettuccine primavera for me, so good! – and I spent the rest of the evening watching tv with my legs up. And hydrating. And still freaking out a little. And regretting not dropping to the 5k. And worrying that I wouldn’t sleep well (we stayed at the same hotel last year and it’s literally right across the street from a railroad crossing where trains lay on their horns all night. It’s a good time. And plus there was a wedding reception and all the rowdy guests seemed to be on our floor).

I eventually managed to fall asleep (and only got woken up once by a train, miraculously), and after a night of stress dreams about the race, was up at the crack of dawn and donning my kit and fighting back crazy pre-race nerves.

Would I make it? Would I faint on the course? Would I have to DNF? Stay tuned for part 2 to find out the answers to these and more! (Except I already told you I made it, oops!) 😉

Do you have any rituals for the night before a big race? Certain foods you eat?

Anyone else experience race-related stress dreams?

Knee Update and a Deferment

Happy Wednesday, readers!

It’s been just over 6 weeks since I saw an ortho for my dodgy knee, and 6 weeks to the day since I started PT for said dodgy knee. Surprisingly, those 6 weeks have flown by! If you had told me back then that I’d be not really running for 6 weeks, I would have been devastated. Now that I’m on the other side of it, it didn’t really feel all that bad… though it did help that May seemed to disappear almost before it had even started! (Seriously, where is this year going?!)

Anyway, I revisited the ortho on Monday for a follow-up. He poked at my knee a bit, said it’s nowhere near as swollen as it was when he first saw me, and then jerked my leg around like he had at our first meeting. It’s a bit disconcerting when he does it… it feels like my kneecap will shoot straight off my leg and bounce around the room… but once again he said that my ACL, MCL, and LCL all feel nice and strong, and that nothing scary is happening with my knee. Which is good news!

The slight twinges I’ve been feeling in the last week or so are normal, apparently, as my knee condition can either cause or be caused by tendonitis in the knee, in a cruel version of chicken-or-egg. The ortho also said that you can’t really cure patellofemoral syndrome (aka Runner’s Knee), but you can take measures to stop it and prevent it. He reiterated that it was likely caused because my quads, hamstrings, and glutes are all weak, and that strengthening those muscles will help keep my knees in line.

If only I were good about strength training… *sheepish face* I really need to get better at making sure I do this, because these constant injuries are maddening! Acccountibilibuddies, please keep me in line! 🙂

wrfIn other news, the Worcester Running Festival, which got rained out this past weekend, has been rescheduled for this coming weekend. Just like I called it, I will not be able to take part. Boo. However, the race director is offering free deferment to any runners that can’t make it this weekend, so now I’m already signed up for next year’s half marathon! Fingers crossed that I’ll be uninjured this time next year so I can finally run this thing!

How’s your week going?

Have you ever had to defer a race? How did it work out?

The Worcester Running Festival was a Wash… Literally

Back in April I signed up for my second half marathon – the Worcester Running Festival half. I felt like it was far enough away that I could train for it, and I always like running races in my home city (like the WFD6K and Canal Diggers, both of which I’ve run twice).

When my knee went wonky on me, it took me a while but I realized that the half would be out of the question. Even if it felt better in time to run the race, I wouldn’t have trained at all. So a few weeks back I switched my registration to the running festival’s 5K, and after a successful WFD6K last week, I was looking forward to another test of my knee. (Plus, this race had bling to look forward to!)

wrfRain lurked in the forecast, and by Saturday it was looking like it was going to be one wet race – 100% chance of rain and thunderstorms in the morning. Gun time was set for 7:15. I packed all black running kit so that I wouldn’t be a soaked, see-through mess, plus SmartWool socks, a visor with a big brim, and a rain jacket. I had studied Running World’s piece on dressing for the rain, and I was ready!

Drew and I arrived in Worcester Saturday night, and the sky was already spitting a bit. Given the super early gun time, we had splurged for a hotel a few blocks away from the starting line in order to avoid a 5am (or earlier) departure time from home the morning of. After a quick supper at Uno’s, I read and tried to psych myself up to run in the rain, which was sounding more unpleasant to me the more I thought about it. Plus, I’d likely be running with a headache, since I had been fighting one off all day and it didn’t show signs of subsiding.

What my evening looked like

I got an email from the race director around 5:30 saying that bib pickup and the post-race party would be held in a underground parking garage – instead of on the common – in an effort to keep everyone as dry as possible. That sounded altogether unpleasant as well… thousands of sweaty runners crammed in a small, low-ceilinged garage in thick humidity. Ugh. But better than standing in the pouring rain, I suppose!

After a night of not-great sleep on a hard hotel bed with trains blowing their horns relentlessly at 5am directly across the street, I dragged myself out of bed when my alarm went off at 6am. With a just-shy-of-blinding headache sitting over my right eye, I changed into my Ninja Kit (TM) and stared out at the pouring rain for a bit:

View out the hotel window, taken the night before when the streets were significantly less wet

I was really not feeling this run, but I really wanted that medal, and I wanted to run again, dagnabbit, dodgy knee be damned. On a whim I checked my email, and there it was – the cancellation. It had landed in my inbox at 5:55am, 5 minutes before packet pickup was about to begin:

The weather has changed for the worst with lightning predicted for the duration of the event. I cannot send runners and volunteers out into an environment where someone could get hurt. Again I am extremely sorry to have to announce this at such late notice. I will reschedule the event as soon as possible and let everyone know the new date as soon as possible.

For a brief second I was disappointed, then that changed to a flood of relief. I didn’t have to run in the driving rain with a searing headache! I didn’t have to feel bad about making Drew and my dad huddle under umbrellas as I ran! I could go back to sleep!! I threw my PJs back on and got another 3 hours of suboptimal sleep and it was glorious.

Also glorious was the peanut butter, Fluff, and banana french toast I had at the Miss Worcester diner, where we took my dad for Father’s Day brunch:

Look at this! The diner had a separate menu just for french toast!

Unfortunately I was unable to finish this thing of beauty… WAY too much food!

Despite my giddy relief about not having to run yesterday, I’m still a little disappointed that I didn’t get my sweet medal. And, given my luck with these sorts of situations in the past, I’m assuming I won’t be able to run the rescheduled race. I suppose we’ll see. For now, my Worcester Running Festival experience was a wash, indeed!

Have you ever run a race in the pouring rain? How did it go? Any tips to share?

Which stuffed french toast would you pick off that menu?
It was so hard to choose!

Friday Five of Randomness

Hello and happy Friday!

Since my brain has been overtaxed these past few weeks and is essentially on strike (I cringe reading the recap I wrote for the Cambridge CityRun… yeesh) – but given that I am quite behind in posting and want to be an active member of the blogosphere again – today’s post will be written as if my brain is on shuffle. At least I’m writing, right? 🙂

So with no further ado, here are five random things on my brain this week:

1) I’m back running again and feeling amazing and somehow faster!!

My ribs have [mostly] healed and my feet and legs seem to be behaving themselves for the moment, so I have been enjoying easing back into some sort of running routine. After performing way better than expected in my first race of the year, I enjoyed a giddy warm(ish) run around the pond, followed by a giddy Easter morning run with the Shammies.

easterThe last time I tried to join the Shammies on their Sunday morning run, it didn’t go so well. This time, however, I was feeling good, there was significantly less snow and ice on the ground to deal with, and I had an amazing run.

I intended to go for 3 miles – mostly so I could get back to my house in time to watch the Burnley v Spurs match before cooking some veg to bring to my grandma’s house for Easter dinner – but was so caught up enjoying running with people that I didn’t realize we were on the 5-mile course until it was too late. By that point it would have been slower to turn back than to keep going, so I completed the 5 miles… faster than the 5-mile race I ran the previous week! What the heck! Pushing myself so as not to slow down my running buddies is the perfect motivator for me, apparently.

2) Marathon week approaches…

…and with it, lots of quality Shammie time that I’m really looking forward to! The club hosts a big pasta dinner every year the Friday before the Marathon, and everyone is invited, even if you’re not running the Marathon. Hooray for free pasta and Shammie time! Then, on Saturday I’m signed up with the club to volunteer at the Marathon expo, and I’m totally giddy with anticipation. I’ve never been to a race expo before, and this is the big one! It’ll be a lot of work (I’m told) but I can’t wait. Sunday is another morning run with the club, and Monday is the Marathon and a much-needed day off from work. Huzzah!

3) Speaking of marathons…

…or at least phrases with “marathon” in them… I bit the bullet and signed up for my second half marathon! I’m not sure right now if I’m excited or just crazy, but I suppose time will tell. Two years back my dad told me about how my home city is trying to become the “Running Capital of New England” – despite sharing a state with Boston, home of the aforementioned Marathon… hmmm… – and as part of that was developing a half marathon. Last year was the inaugural, and I was too injured and too scared of 13.1 mile distances to sign up. Now that I’ve run one, and apparently forgetting how I swore off running additional ones immediately after finishing the first, I figured I might as well give it a go! It looks to be a bit hilly, and is a summer race, so I’m not expecting to PR, but I’m also hoping to *actually* train this time around, so we’ll see how it goes.

wrf4) And speaking of Worcester races…

…I have to DNS yet another race this year, and I’m totally bummed about it. 😦 I signed up for the Tour de Worcester as soon as registration opened, hoping to be able to run all three races this year (as opposed to running one, trying to run another, and straight-up walking the third). Well, this is what I get for registering for races months and months ahead of time… turns out I’m going to have to miss not one but two of the Tour races this year, due to very awesome but very unavoidable plans (more about these at another time). Mostly I’m upset that I wasted so much money on two races. I really need to learn to rein in my ridiculously early race registration habit!

Random scenes from last year's Tour de Worcester

Random scenes from last year’s Tour de Worcester

5) The one not related to running at ALL…

Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” has been stuck in my head all week. All. Week. I like the song, but to be honest, it’s driving me a bit batty. However, I’ve had a revelation about this song recently, specifically about the following lyric:

No you didn’t have to stoop so low
Have your friends collect your records and then change your number

… when you hear “records” in that line, what do you imagine? Are his ex’s friends picking up LPs? I assume that’s what most people would think. For the first million times I heard the song, I imagined the friends picking up boxes full of papers. I guess you know you’re an archivist when… 😉

What do you think – LPs? Or paper records?

Who’s racing this weekend? Any fun plans?

What are your thoughts on race expos? Anything in particular I should keep my eyes peeled for?

Anyone else have a serious problem with signing up for races too early and then not running them??