Race day morning dawned clear and …..NOT COLD! After weeks of frigid temperatures, we are finally getting a break and it was 40 degrees and sunny. Clearly a good day for a race!
My husband (a.k.a., the Incredibly Awesome Mervus, a.k.a. I.A.M.) and the kids went with me to this one so we got up, had breakfast and got everything packed up. I love it when they come to races so this was a real treat. I gathered up my running gear and the food for the post-race brunch; The Incredibly Awesome Mervus got the kids and some books and off we went. Picked up Snarky Girl on the way there.
The race started at the Bacon Academy, same location as the New Year’s Day run. We quickly ran into another mom from Spencer School and Maple Leaf Trail Runner. Fast Friend showed up and we had quite a crew.
When we signed up for this race, the plan was to treat it as a glorified training run. I’ve thought of running this half in other years, but I’ve been too chicken. The course is super hilly and you have to train right through January to be able to run it. When I sent an email to Easy Going Trainer describing my plans for this spring, I said something like “My goal will be just to accomplish the race.”
Yeah, well, so much for that. Training has been going so well for the past few weeks. Fast Friend definitely planned to run this one hard. It’s no secret that I want to run a sub-2 hour half marathon. I was pretty sure that wasn’t going to happen at Colchester, but I was also ready to run this race hard and see what happened. I hadn’t raced a half since the Ghost Train Run in November 2012 (2:06:43) and I am certainly in better shape now. I spent a good deal of time Thursday and Friday looking at pace calculators and wondering what was possible.
We got a tip from someone at the start that the course was just as hilly as we had heard. Also, that there were plenty of hills even in the last two miles so not to take the early hills too quickly. My friends are all faster than I am so I wished them a good race and settled in for 13.1 miles.
The rest of the race doesn’t have a real narrative. Sometimes I feel like a race is almost a story that unfolds as it goes. This one was just a collection of impressions. The race is hilly, that’s for sure. So hilly that pacing by my watch was pretty much right out the window. I had thought to aim for between a 9 min and 9:30 pace, but we were constantly going up and down so I had to run it by feel. I kept thinking of Jenny Hadfield’s advice about running by effort and I tried to keep my effort consistently hard. That seemed to work.
The scenery was very pretty. Currier and Ives style Connecticut farmland and woods in the snow. We ran two stretches on dirt roads, which were treacherous because they weren’t thawed. The most beautiful part was definitely on a downhill maybe 2/3 of the way through when we ran past a huge red barn on our left. The barn against the snow in the sunshine – stunning. I took a moment and told myself, just remember this. Remember how gorgeous this is and feel grateful that you are out here and able to do this. That barn was transcendent, not a normal description for a barn. I hope I sealed that vision into my memory forever.
I did my usually fueling for a half with GUs at miles 4, 7 and 10 more or less. That corresponded pretty well to the three water stops on the course. I did get some cramping in my hips partway through the race. I am now thinking the problem is that I need more salt so at 7 and 10 miles, I had water instead of Gatorade, just to get the additional sodium. That goes against the rule of not having GU and Gatorade together and also the rule of nothing-new-on-race-day, but I figured my stomach has been pretty strong and my hips have been a problem so I bet on my stomach being ok, which it was. No idea if the Gatorade helped. I did back off on pace a couple of times and the cramping never got as awful as it was during the marathon, but it was there. I’m going to definitely try some salt tablets or something next weekend.
I loved the music I listened to during the race. The Sub-30 group on facebook made a lot of suggestions and they were all awesome. I barely ever listen to music while running right now because I’m always running with friends, but it’s a real treat to listen while racing.
I had more than I thought I did to say about this race, but I saved the most important thing for last. I felt really different running this race than possibly any other. More in control, more powerful, stronger, and more joyful. I had a great race on New Year’s Day, but 5Ks are so painful. Fast Friend was yelling at me the whole time [ok, probably not the whole time], which was very helpful actually, but it didn’t feel controlled or particularly joyful. In this race I felt like I might imagine Kara Goucher or someone like that feels. I ran fast and hard almost the entire race, yet also in control. If I wanted to pass someone, I passed them. I passed a lot of people, easily more than I’ve passed in any other race, possibly more than I’ve passed in all other races combined. Plenty of them passed me back later, but I’m used to that. This was running that felt a little bit like flying.
The last mile was hard. The last half mile was almost impossibly hard. I count when things get rough and I counted the entire last mile. The best thing about being the slowest is that your whole gang is waiting for you at the finish line. So, I saw Snarky Girls’s crazy yellow Alaska shirt and Fast Friend in her headband and Maple Leaf Trail Runner, also in bright yellow. And then around the last corner Mervus with the kids and my daughter holding out her hand and everyone yelling. Then I spotted the clock which said something like 2:04:54 and I pushed like a crazy woman to get across that finish line in under 2:05. Gun time: 2:04:58. Net time: 2:04:33. WOO HOO!