[Ok, this got a little longwinded (get used to it). But mostly because it is not just one race report but two! In fact, since I brought it up, I actually don’t consider either of these races – but on paper they were, so we’ll call them that for lack of a better term. One is from awhile ago, but serves as a good comparison to the one that took place just this past weekend…]
A few weeks ago, I ran in the 20k Championships held in New Haven, CT. I should first say that I do not sign up for this race because I was gunning for the win. I signed up for it because it fell at good time for it to serve as a tune-up race prior to the Hartford Marathon (which I’ll be running on October 12). It would be competitive, it was relatively close to home, and the entry fee was generously covered by the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) – and though I was not aware of it ahead of time, the race itself provided some excellent support to its elite athletes.
We arrived the afternoon prior to the race and stayed at our friends’ Bart and Veena’s (both excellent and inspirational runners) house. Neither Bart or Veena were home, as they were dessert catering a farm to table event at a local farm where Veena volunteers on the weekend.
After a night of not-so-great sleep (my current stereotype of New Havenites is that many of them drive muffler-less cars at fast speeds down residential streets into the wee hours of the morning AND because we were staying on the race course, once the drivers went to bed, the tow trucks from every towing company in the area came by to fight over their resting cars), I got up and headed to the start.
[4am: picture shows approximately half the tow trucks fighting over this probably muffler-less car. You also can’t see it, but there is a man with a megaphone screaming, ‘OWNER OF A VOLVO WE ARE TOWING YOUR CAR!’]
To say it was humid would be an understatement. In fact, it was so humid that it started to rain lightly just as the race was starting and though it stopped within a few minutes, it seemed like there was no difference in the amount of moisture in the air between the rain starting and stopping. It felt like I was breathing water.
The countdown to the start began, the starter yelled for us to go – and we were off!
From somewhere around mile 1, I was ready to drop out. For a race that is just over 12 miles long, this is not a good sign. But as a distance runner, I know not to panic too much in the early parts of the race, as I often feel better 3-4 miles in after my body has warmed up. However, at mile 4, I still felt myself wanting to cease movement and collapse on the side of the road. Yet, I somehow convinced myself to continue at least to 10k before reevaluating. At 10k, it was the same story as I bargained with myself to make it to where I knew Bart and Veena would be cheering around mile 7 – and as you can expect, from there, it continued to be a slow, soul-crushing death march. By this point, my pace was slowing significantly. I passed mile 9, to see the clock read 2 minutes slower than a tempo I had done basically alone earlier in the week. It was defeating – and the only thing that kept me in it was the thought that even though this ‘race’ was no longer serving as a test in speed or physical strength, it was definitely helping develop my mental capacity to endure intense discomfort.
I did finish the race (about a minute slower than my half marathon PR) and I even ended up passing a handful of guys in the last half mile. While the performance was not something to write home about, I WAS proud of myself for continuing to the end. I spent the next hour trying to dry off, getting a post-race quad massage, and cooling down with some other women from the race while commiserating over the conditions (please note that the winner of the men’s race, Matt Tegenkamp, called it suicide).
I’m usually not too hard on myself following bad workouts or races. But this one did stick with me for a bit. Physically, I knew I was in better shape than my 1:20 in humid conditions would otherwise suggest, so I was able to (for the most part) push that aside. But mentally, this race crushed me. Throughout the next week or so, I had a hard time wanting to challenge myself. Each time I attempted some faster running, I had a difficult time finding my motivation – and even questioned if I could even bring myself to run a hard marathon later in the fall. I still enjoyed running, but I had no desire to put myself through something like that again.
Fast forward a couple weeks.
Like the way you forget how bad the flu is, after a short wave of heat and humidity, the clouds parted and we got some amazingly beautiful, cool, crisp fall weather and running became enjoyable again. I coupled this great weather with a trip to Salem to run with Meagan Nedlo, who I had only run with a handful of times. Meagan is one of the few other women I know in the area who is currently training for a marathon, so despite the fact that she is formidably speedy, I reached out to her to see if she’d be interested in getting together for a run. We had made plans for a long run with marathon pace miles, but ended up turning it into a long run with only a short tempo. Again, that workout didn’t go as planned – but it was more than ok because I did spend 18 miles running a pretty decent clip, chatting and remembering how wonderful faster running can be.
Before I headed back to Boston, Meagan mentioned a half marathon the next weekend along a similar route we had just run. While I wasn’t too keen to race a half only 3 weeks out from Hartford, it seemed the an excellent opportunity to get in a good long marathon paced run, so I asked her to send me the information and I’d check it out. For a workout, the race fee was a bit spendy ($60 dollars all-together), but the terrain seemed optimal (not too challenging, but definitely some good rolling hills), the scenery great, and surely a handful of decent runners to keep the pace steady – certainly better conditions than attempting it on my own.
Wicked Half: 13.1 miles through Salem and Marblehead
Prize Structure: 300, 100, 50
Plan: 13.1 miles at marathon pace, 6:15-6:10 (not racing!) + winning back entry fee
I warmed up with Meagan from her place. The weather was pretty great, 60 degrees and slightly humid (a bit warmer than it had been for the previous couple days, but still pretty good). We scoped out our possible competition (hopefully none) and got ready to go.
We started off a bit quick (my fault as I hate getting swallowed in the crowd right off). But wiithin a mile we had settled in and had some space. We were joined by one other girl, Nicole, who politely asked us if she could join in the fun. OF COURSE! But by mile 4, the pace had quickened (cause that’s what happens when 3 competitive women run side by side) and though I felt good, I decided to drop back to keep with my marathon pace plan. Through the next 4 miles or so, I was surprised to maintain a 20 meters gap behind Meagan and Nicole. At mile 9, I was still feeling good and felt like I could start pushing the pace a bit, so I took advantage of a downhill and rolled by. I silently hoped my pick-up wouldn’t turn the run into a race so early, but was feeling good and thought it wasn’t too early to take advantage of it.
The next few miles flew by and soon we were about 1 mile from the finish and I could hear the cheers for “Meagan” getting closer (it became clear that the entire town of Salem knows her).
I can’t remember exactly where, but she blew by me and stayed about 30 meters ahead through the finish – where we got lots of comments from spectators how exciting the race was, watching us all battle back and forth. Nicole came in shortly after with a great half PR – and it’s no doubt she’ll kick some butt at New York next month. As for Meagan and me, we both got in our workouts and won our entry fees back.
[sneaking in the picture to pose with Meagan’s giant check – photo credit to Karhu twitter post]
This was a nice start to the weekend and a nice shadow to cast over the New Haven disaster. It’s a nice reminder to not get too hung up on a bad day here or there . I felt smooth and strong and ran my plan. I even got to pose with Meagan’s giant check before heading up to VT for the weekend!