I woke up in the middle of the night just like after the Hartford marathon. I can’t seem to eat enough after a marathon to sleep through! So I thought I would just write down some thoughts and memories before they all slip away.
I ran a great race today. I feel so proud of what I’ve done and kind of amazed. I really wanted some redemption after Hartford and boy, I got it. Lots of time at the gym, faster running, more miles. It all paid off. I can’t wait to see what comes next.
It does feel like this race started one second after Hartford ended. I really wanted a better time. That led to joining Innovative Fitness and Wellness. And convincing nearly all my friends to join. And a more ambitious training plan. And three fast half marathons this spring. I have raced five times in 2014 and PR’d at four of those races at three different distances. It’s been quite a year.
As for this race, the lead-up was certainly marked by Fast Friend dropping out. We had trained together since January and I was so excited to run it with her. Though we weren’t planning to stick together, we would be together at the start. She had run the half at Hartford and we’ve raced a lot together. She’s perhaps the best training partner I’ll ever have and I was eager to do this together. It was not to be, however, and lucky me, Snarky Girl said she would run in Fast Friend’s place. Ridiculously, I fretted about this, but it hadn’t been part of the plan. In the end, it was fabulous to run with Snarky Girl.
The Wiliarty gang headed to Providence the night before the race. The kids were adorable – super excited to be in a hotel. They all went swimming while I headed to the expo and picked up the bibs.
My friend Nicole from Running While Mommy and from the sub-30 facebook group had invited us over for dinner. We got to her house around 6pm. Both kids and grown-ups hit it off immediately! Nicole had also invited Beth (from Beth Runs in RI) and her husband Dave and it was fun to meet everyone. Delicious macaroni with gravy! Which is Philadelphia-speak for pasta with red sauce! It was a super fun night and a great way to relax before the race.
Nicole and me
Beth, Nicole, and me. We did not plan the purple shirts!
Back at the hotel, I got final preparations under way. I had texted with Coach Cowboy earlier in the afternoon and he made me inventory everything I would have with me for the race. This was actually a great idea because I kept everything together and then also double-checked the list I had made for him so it made the evening preparations much easier.
Ready to go!
Got my stuff settled and got the kids settled and hit the hay around 11pm. I took a Tylenol PM and slept pretty well.
I got up around 5:45am and started getting ready. I had gotten a bowl from the restaurant to make my oatmeal. They had a microwave in the snack bar so I used that. Worked great! Also had coffee and two salt tabs. Also wrote Coach Cowboy’s three mantras on my arm: You are tougher than you think you are. Never give up. Move your ass.
Then I grabbed my fuel belt, phone, and the bibs and headed out to meet Snarky Girl. She was right in front of the Convention Center with Mr. Snarky Girl and the kids. We said good bye to her family and headed to the start. I ended up feeling thirsty and hadn’t brought water. Usually there’s water at the start but not this time. So, we poked around trying to find some and finally got some at a hotel restaurant. Also ran into Sasha and her dad Bruce. Very fun to see them! This race was SO much smaller than Hartford. We were all lined up at the start and it was still very casual, plenty of room.
Snarky Girl and I at the start
I have to say, I liked this small race way better than the sardine scene at Hartford. They played the national anthem and we were off! Right away someone was yelling Sarah! Sarah! From the sidelines! I couldn’t figure out who it could be and even when I looked, I wasn’t sure at first. Then I realized, of course, that’s Nicole! She was running the half and had managed to spot us right out of the gate! Very fun!
We are on the far left – I’m in the purple hat!
The first few miles of the race passed really quickly. After a mile, we focused in on our 9:50 pace. Snarky Girl knew that’s what we were aiming for and she had her watch set to tell us if we were on track. She didn’t quite understand the watch, but mostly this worked out fine. The idea was to aim for 9:50 running pace, to give ourselves some leeway with water stops and such. Our goal time was 4:30 and that’s a 10:18 pace. We stopped at every water stop except the first one, which wasn’t really set up yet. We think maybe it was for the half because there was another one pretty quickly. It was warmer than I expected and I wondered if we were going to be in for a hot one. Before we knew it, we were at mile 4, time for the first Gu. Snarky Girl had water and Gu at mile 5, which was silly – double slow down – so after that we tried to coordinate better.
We also saw the families at mile 5. Snarky Girl’s son came running towards us and then turned and raced back to the rest of the gang. They were cheering and yelling and giving us high fives. It was so fun to see them. Snarky Girl dropped her long sleeved shirt and we were on our way again. Later we found out that they all headed back to the hotel for a swim. They had plenty of time until we would see them again!
Snarky Girl and I have run literally hundreds of miles together. We’ve run in the dark, in the rain, in the snow, we’ve run on the roads, we’ve run on the trails, long runs, quick jaunts, you name it. We actually ran together in the dark for a few weeks before realizing that we had met before because she was one of Rose’s first swim instructors. Our families also spend a lot of time together. The kids get along great and Snarky Girl and Mr. Snarky Girl have been our home improvement gurus. So, it was a surprise to realize that in all that time and all that running, we had never gone over our romantic histories! That turned out to be a fun topic and got us through to mile 10 or 11.
Of course, when you’re running a big race like this, you see some of the same people over and over again. We passed one woman who was sort of moaning and gasping with every breath. This was VERY early in the race! I thought she was never going to finish – she really sounded bad. Well, around mile 10, she caught up to us again. Another woman was running her pace almost exactly and quipped to us “I just can’t take it anymore! I have my iPod turned up as loud as it will go!” We laughed really hard about that. Joked that the woman sounded like she was having an orgasm, or who knows what. Anyway, despite her gasping and moaning, she was clearly running fine and it gave us a good laugh.
I hadn’t been sure how long I was going to talk to Snarky Girl because I’m used to racing with music. I knew this race would be hard and that the music would help, but I also didn’t want to be rude. And, we were keeping a good pace. I decided to at least hold off on the music until the half, which we crossed at around 2:15. I had been aiming for 2:10, per Cowboy Coach’s suggestion, but figured 2:15 had to be close enough. It was a little warm, but at least it wasn’t getting any warmer. We saw a thermometer around mile 3 that read 60. On the way back in at mile 23, it said 64.
I had had Gu at miles 4, 7, and 10. I should have had one at 13, but got excited about the halfway point and forgot. I don’t forget to fuel very often, but I didn’t let it rattle me. Around mile 14, I started to feel what was the beginning of a cramp. I was taking a salt tab with every Gu, so missing the Gu meant missing the salt. I took one right away, just in case. Just to make this list complete, after that I had 1.5 bananas at mile 15, Gu and salt at mile 18, banana and salt at 21 and that was it. After 21 miles, I just wanted to finish.
At mile 15, we took our longest “break” because we decided to use the port-a-potties. Snarky Girl had had to go earlier, but had been a great sport when I said every line was too long. At mile 15, I knew they would have bananas and that I would want one. We had also jumped ahead of the 4:30 pace group (!) so there wasn’t a line and we decided to go for it. Snarky Girl said it was very funny because she was peeing in there while drinking her Gatorade at the same time! I had 1.5 bananas and some Gatorade. I just mixed it up with Gatorade and water on the course, but we stopped at every single water stop and I tried to drink two cups every time. That is for sure more water than I drank during Hartford and I bet that helped keep the cramping at bay.
The 4:30 group passed us during this stop, but we caught them up again fairly quickly and passed them back. That was the last we saw of them. I confirmed this with Snarky Girl once on the course, but I really didn’t want to think about them. It would be a huge accomplishment to beat 4:30, but in the end, we were just over 4:30 and they were quite a ways back. I bet the wind got them.
By the halfway mark and definitely by 15 miles, we were both starting to feel tired. Not unmanageably so, but fatigued for sure. Snarky Girl even said something about it and it’s hard to wear Snarky Girl out. I felt like our pace was slipping and it was taking more focus to stay on pace. So, at mile 17 I said I was going to put my music on and see how it went. We could still talk but I wanted my tunes. This was an immediate pick-me-up. I know elite runners don’t use music and sometimes it feels like a crutch. But damn, it also really works and I love running and listening to music, so what the hell. For this first stretch, I put on the playlist I made for working out at the gym. I like all those songs but it isn’t my race play list. I was saving that.
At mile 18, we got hit with the wind. Wind had been predicted, possibly even strong wind, and this was pretty bad. I am SO glad we had a lot of the race behind us already. It didn’t come up slowly. Just all of a sudden, huge wind. Running in the wind is not very fun, at least not to me, so I’ve become able to judge how hard the wind is blowing pretty accurately. This was at least 20 mph, maybe stronger. It was some of the worst wind I’ve ever run in. And, of course, always a bloody headwind. It felt like my bib was going to blow off. A friend said she closed her eyes some of the time because she thought the wind would blow her contacts out. It was crazy. Thank goodness, we sometimes were sheltered from it, but a lot of this section of the course is along the shore and we were totally exposed. Running by this shoreline was awesome on the way out. So, so incredibly gorgeous. It was still beautiful on the way back, but now there were huge whitecaps and I just wanted to get to the end of the shore to have more shelter. We also had to run one long bridge in that and same thing – just get to the end of the never-ending bridge to get out of the wind.
Before the wind got truly awful, though, we had one more highlight, which was that our families were meeting us at mile 21. We thought about mile 21 starting at mile 15 and seriously from mile 18 on. Just three more miles and we would see the guys and the kids. Snarky Girl’s son was out in front again, sort of a scout, running up to meet us. The Incredible Mervus and the kids had the huge signs they had made for Hartford. Everyone knew this time around it wasn’t going to be about snuggling. They had bananas and Gatorade for us. I grabbed a bottle of Gatorade and ran with it for awhile. Had a banana too.
The plan was to turn it on after mile 20. Make that mile 21 because there was a big hill at mile 20 and families at 21. However, after we left them, I switched to the race playlist and I was ready to go. I definitely still had something in the tank at this point and even wondered if we should have run the first 21 a bit faster. I started speeding up and Snarky Girl right away asked what was up. I told her this was the plan, that I could hold the new pace, and she didn’t have to come with me. She was worried about cramping, but kept up and after a speedy mile, I backed off just a bit. Then, we hit an area along the shore and that damn wind. Then it was just a fight and I was glad to have a little extra energy to throw at the wind. The last five miles were hard, but they are supposed to be hard, right? It was mostly not soul-crushingly hard. It was a bit like a cartoon where you are moving your legs as fast as you can and holding still because of the wind. I did doubt myself during these miles but it helped that Coach Cowboy had said to expect that. So, I just took the doubt as normal and kept running. Snarky Girl was a badass hero. She ran ever so slightly ahead of me and kept a close eye on our pace. I was done talking by this point. She said a bit more but mostly it was just work. There was one very steep hill that we agreed to walk up. Snarky Girl prefers to walk on steep hills and this was very short and right before the bridge where the wind was going to hit us hard, so I didn’t mind.
I could tell on my watch that we were going to be right around 4:30 but couldn’t tell if we’d be over or under it. Without the wind, we would have been under for sure, perhaps well under. With the wind it was going to be close. However, I felt pretty damn elated about this. 4:30 plus or minus a few minutes is still a hell of an improvement from 5:27 and it was really clear we were going to be very close to 4:30.
We passed a lot of people in the last five miles. A lot. Many people were walking. I mostly didn’t feel like walking. Both Fran and Coach Cowboy had said something about wanting to walk in the last five miles. Cowboy had made it very clear. “You will want to walk. Don’t.” Ok coach. We didn’t. It was hard, but we ran that last five miles very very strong and that felt good. That “Work Bitch” song came on and I listened to it twice. Also heard “Happy” during the last five and it made me SO happy to think of Chris from Tell Me I Cant’t; I’ll Show You My Will and Nicole and how we’ve become such good friends and how much I knew they were rooting for me. Finished up with “Girl on Fire” – can’t get more appropriate than that.
This finish line came into view after a corner, but it wasn’t a long stretch then. I was SO happy to see it. Ran like crazy and I suspect my finishing pictures are awful, but oh well.
Snarky Girl and I finished together which was sweet, just sweet. And we found the families right away. Lots of hugs and Gatorade and trying to find a place to stretch. Finish line blur. Many pictures. The stupid tracking app was a disaster so no one knew how the race was going. I posted quickly to Facebook. Final time: 4:33:03! I’m thrilled!
I had a wonderful quick phone call at the finish line with Fast Friend who said “Now you will want 4:15 and sub-4!” How well she knows me. It was great to talk to her even if we couldn’t run together. And, then, time for food and some ice cream for those great kids!