Keeping up with my tradition of very late race reports, I ran the Mystic Half marathon on May 31st. After missing the Colchester Half and the Middletown Half, I was SO HAPPY to finally run a half marathon in 2015. This was a good one to kick things off with. It’s the first year for this event and the race was great.
My training for Mystic was…..unusual? Inadequate? How about we say, lots fewer miles than I normally run. I’m still coming back from the bulging disc in my back and I’m not yet even up to running my regular maintenance miles. Still, it felt like I probably had enough miles under my belt to finish Mystic safely and I certainly wasn’t in the mood to miss yet another race.
I found it nearly impossible to judge how fast I would be able to run. My mileage has been low, but I’ve been doing a lot of core work for physical therapy. I’ve done a couple of longer runs with Teacher Runner and felt really strong at the end. I’ve had some little bursts of speed that tell me things aren’t a total disaster in runner land. Yet, I had run one 9 mile run as my longest distance since the NYC marathon. I really wanted to get to 10 miles so I did a 10 mile run a week before the race. In 1:44. Hmmm. Yes, that run included stopping the clock for a shoe change (so long beautiful but blister-inducing Brooks….), but still. I wasn’t dying at the end. I started to re-asses my goals. I had been really hoping to come in below 2:20, which is about the time of my slowest half and that started to feel possible. After the 10 miler, I was thinking 2:15 was possible. The night before the race, I sent a text to Coach Cowboy – did he think sub 2:10 was a reasonable goal? Then I went to bed. Woke up at 4:15am (yes, that’s right) to a text saying yes, 2:10 is a reasonable goal, so yeah for that! Oatmeal, coffee, coffee for the road. Ugh, it was so damn early. I jumped in the car to pick up Snarky Girl.
The drive to Mystic was uneventful. Parking was easy-peasy. We saw Nicole as we drove up. Even the line for port-a-potties wasn’t too bad. We ran into Early Bird and said hi.
I had picked up our bibs and shirts the day before but I got to packet pick-up late, right as they were closing. They pretty much threw the bibs and shirts at me as they were taping the boxes closed. They did not throw any safety pins at me, but I figured there would be plenty at the race. Not so, it turned out. I was starting to think I was going to have to carry the bib in my hands. After texting Nicole in a panic, her friend Jenn managed to find some in her car. Whew!
“Safety-Pins 29789-480×360 (4816852799)” by Emilian Robert Vicol from Com. Balanesti, Romania – Safety-Pins_29789-480×360. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Safety-Pins_29789-480x360_(4816852799).jpg#/media/File:Safety-Pins_29789-480x360_(4816852799).jpg
Snarky Girl was running the 10K and going for a fast time so she headed to the front. Nicole was looking for a slower pace group so we all ended up starting separately. The first few miles clicked along easily. The course is really beautiful. We had plenty of time running along the water. Tall ships and pretty houses to look at. I had to work during this part of the course to stay slow enough. I had thought to start at a 10:15 pace, but that was clearly going to make me bat-shit crazy so I tried to hold it around 9:45. It was sort of odd to try to pace off someone by not passing them, but that’s what I did. It worked pretty well and I ran pretty evenly. The sun was occasionally a little hot. I listened to my trusty half marathon play list. Every time I started to feel not so great, I checked my watch and I had inadvertently sped up. At about 48-50 minutes I thought, eh, lucky Snarky Girl. She is DONE. The 10K went right and the half marathoners went left. Up a long, long slow hill only to turn around and come back down that same damn hill. Why?? An out and back up a freaking hill? That felt a little insulting! I did see Nicole coming up as I was going down, so that was fun.
After we finished the out and back we were near the split between the 10K and the half, which was also near the finish line. I know Snarky Girl and I knew she might be lurking around the course somewhere to cheer us on. I have been accused of being somewhat “focused” during races though so even though I was looking for her, when some woman started yelling at me, I was a bit confused. “Nice pace! Get up that hill! You’re looking great!” Huh? Who IS that person and why are they following me? Oh, of course, it WAS Snarky Girl! She stood on the next hill to run us up it. So fun!
Mystic is an interesting course. The first half is nearly totally flat. The second half is pretty hilly. This is one reason I wanted to be sure to start conservatively. After leaving Snarky Girl and the starting area, it was up and then a huge long downhill where I got to see the leaders just finishing. I love when a course intersects like that and I could see that the leaders were incredibly spread out. I also thought, oh crap, this big long hill we are running down – they are running up it. So later we will run up it. Ugh.
Part of this section of the course reminded me of the Celebrate Life Half. Which is not a compliment in my book. That’s one of my least favorite races ever. It felt like running on a sine wave around a lake. Despite the lake being pretty and all, a sine wave is no fun to run on. But this was also pretty and it wasn’t as bad as Celebrate Life. Two funny events happened during the second half of the race. On one of the longer hills, partway up, one of the volunteers was screaming. She was just screaming! Maybe she was saying Go Go Go or maybe just AHHHHHHH!!!! It was hard to tell. But, it was actually quite fun! The second funny event: around mile 10 I heard someone yell “Go Sarah! Go Professor Badass!” Now, I didn’t have my moniker on my shirt. I saw the person but wasn’t sure who it was. It wasn’t Nicole’s friend Jenn. Everyone else I knew at the race was running. Who was my mysterious fan? It was pretty cool to be recognized!
Somewhere in here, that same feeling of pure joy from the duathlon hit me again. I was running and the Imagine Dragons song, “I’m On Top of the World” came on and I just started grinning. I love this so much and I’ve waited for what feels like a long time to get back to it.
Cause I’m on top of the world,
I’m on top of the world,
Waiting on this for a while now
Paying my dues to the dirt
I’ve been waiting to smile,
Been holding it in for a while,
Take you with me if I can
Been dreaming of this since a child
I’m on top of the world.
I just totally love doing this.
The race plan had been to pick up the pace after five miles and again after nine miles, if I felt good. But the course was getting hillier and it was getting hotter. I experimented with a bit faster, but mostly felt pretty good right around 9:30-9:45. I ended up running even splits for most of the race. I did the first half in 1:04, and the second half in 1:03 (even though the second half had the hills! Go me!). My mysterious fan had been at mile 10 and I hadn’t found that huge hill yet. I figured mile 11 would be uphill? But no, it wasn’t. Finally at the beginning of mile 12, the uphill started, but it didn’t end up being nearly as bad as expected. Half a mile up and half a mile down for my fastest mile of the race!
At some point I realized that 2:10 was more than likely in the bag and, in fact, faster than 2:10 was possible. I really kicked it out that last mile or so. I finished and knew I was under 2:08! Turns out I finished in 2:07:21! SO very happy about that! I completely didn’t expect it, but I’m thrilled. I really credit a lot of the core work I’ve been doing for letting me run that quickly so fast after injury on so few training miles.
The finish area was fun. I got the beautiful medal and some water and talked to Coach Cowboy. Then went to wait for Nicole to come in. The woman next to me was screaming for the runners and I started screaming too. I love cheering! I asked if she was waiting for someone and she said no, she had just come to volunteer. In fact, she was the screaming volunteer from halfway up that hill! At that point I gave her a huge and probably disgustingly sweaty hug. How cool!
I saw Nicole come in just under 2:30 and we found Snarky Girl. She not only ran just over 48 minutes for the 10K, she took 1st in her age group! Nicole had found someone great to run with on the course. We all went and grabbed some post-race treats. The Hartford Marathon Foundation has these bars as a post-race treat right now. The Truebars. WOW, those suckers are good! Made locally too! We stood around in our post-race glow for a bit, did a little foam rolling, and headed off to brunch. Post-race brunch with this crew is becoming a tradition along with post-race mimosas! I would definitely do this race again.