Thursday, March 10, 2011
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
***Disclaimer: One I started typing it just didn't stop! This is a long post :) Also, SO SAD, but I forgot my camera on this trip, so all the pictures are from my cell phone which explains the bad quality*****
Ibecame pregnant with Lincoln in December 2008 and I have not competed in a race since. For someone who has been a runner since 5th grade, that is a long time to go without racing! But, once you get out of the “competition mode”, it is really easy to stay out of it. I would work out often, and go running occasionally, but I wasn’t training seriously. Finally I decided to just go ahead and register for a marathon. I knew that if I was registered for a race, it would force me to train consistently. As part of my marathon training I decided to run a half marathon in Williamsburg, PA. As this was the first race I had competed in for a long time I was quite nervous!
The race didn’t start until 1pm on Sunday afternoon but I had convinced Sheridan to drive down the night before. Williamsburg is about 2.5 hours from our house and I didn’t want to sit in a car all morning, race 13.1 miles, and then sit in a car all evening. So, I went online and found a room at Motel 6 for $20! What a bargain! Well, we got to the hotel and realized why it was such a bargain. The hotel was quite a dive!! I will say we have stayed in some worse hotels before, but this one was right up there.
I haven’t really had to stay in a hotel with Lincoln since we drove cross-country last year. He is older now and more aware of his surroundings. At around 1am I realized maybe it wasn’t as good of an idea to drive down the night before. Lincoln was seriously up all night, I think because he was just in an unfamiliar place. Finally it was 5:30am and nobody had slept well. Lincoln kept waking up what felt like every 30 minutes and crying. Sheridan was so sweet! He said to Lincoln, “Come on buddy. You and Dad are going to go for a drive. Mom has a big race today and needs to get some sleep”. So they went for a drive and scoped out Williamsburg while I got to sleep in until 9am. I was so happy and it was really thoughtful of Sheridan.
If you have never been to Williamsburg before I would definitely recommend it! It is the cutest little colonial town and only 8 miles from the original Jamestown settlement (all weekend I had Pocahontas songs stuck in my head ;)) There are TONS of restaurants but each one we stopped at had a 45+ minute wait! Finally we just settled on McDonald’s for breakfast and ordered the Breakfast of Champions - coffee and oatmeal. I have had major stomach issues lately on my long runs, so I was really nervous to eat too much, but knew I needed to eat enough to get me through 13 miles of racing.
We drove to William and Mary University and picked up tshirt, map, and beer tickets (this is actually becoming more popular in races to serve beer afterwards.....I have actually even done races before where they hand beer out during the race....so strange to me!) We still had about an hour until the race started so Sheridan and I drove first three miles of course. I started getting nervous when I realized miles 2 and 3 were ALL uphill!! “Uh oh!,” I thought, “What does the rest of the course look like??” But, there really was no turning back at this point. Sheridan kept saying to me, “You are going to have to forget about trying to make your 8:20 min/mile pace. Just take that goal out of your head now so you don’t get disappointed while you are running”. I didn’t really give him a yes or a no, I just started going over everything I knew about hills in my head. All of the sudden I got Pat McCurry’s voice in my head (my cross country and track coach in college):
“run hard all the way through and over the crest of the hill”
“short, quick strides uphill, long strides downhill”
“use your arms for strength on the uphill”
“tuck your head and arms in, and lengthen your stride on downhills”
Sheridan dropped me off at start of the race, I got in the looooong line to use the port-a-johns, and as I was waiting in line I looked down and realized that my hands were shaking with jitters! I laughed to myself as I got excited for the race and started to remember how fun it was to get that race-day adrenaline pumping.
I did my 10 minute warmup, drills and strides. People started lining up for the start line. I lined up near the middle of pack – thinking I shouldn’t start off too close to the start for a 8:20 pace and get passed by all the faster runners.
The air horn went off and instantly I got excited! Took me almost a minute to get to start line and start the time on my watch. It was at this point that I realized I had started too far back. I stayed on the outside edge of the crowds, picking people off, passing them 10 at a time. I was a little frustrated because I kept getting boxed in and was concerned it was going to slow down my first mile time. About halfway through the first mile I knew I was going fast but had so much adrenaline pumping it was hard to slow down. I just maintained the pace I was at and all of the sudden I saw the one mile sign ahead of me, looked at my watch, and though, “Oh crap”….my watch said 7:01. By the time I reached the actual marker my first mile time was 7:13.
I slowed down a little, but then I had a little bit of downhill and thought to myself, “well I might as well open my stride up and go fast on this downhill to gain momentum for the uphill” . Because I had started further back I was steadily passing men and women, which felt good and made we want to keep at the pace I was going. I got to the two mile marker and ran that mile in 7:36. I knew I was going fast, but I felt good and it felt so good to actually compete again, so I decided just to keep with the pace.
Finally I got to the top of the huge two-mile hill (right before the 3-mile marker). There was a water station set up, so I grabbed the Dixie cup of water, drank half and poured the other half on my head (surprisingly it got to 70 degrees on this February 27th day!). At this point the race turned into a 10-foot wide trail through a beautiful wooded area. I loved this part of the race! This trail went appx. through mile 6 or so with up-and-down hills the entire way. I don’t think there was any flat ground on this section. The field really started to thin out at this point and I was mostly running with guys, although there were a few women along the way. I must mention that I am not very strong at hills, so I had a game plan coming into this race. I knew there would be a lot of hills, so I decided I would increase my stride and pick up my pace as much as possible on the downhills and then use that momentum to make it through the uphills. I always would pass people on the downhill and then those people would pass me back on the uphill. Haha! I am sure I was annoying to them, but oh well, if I wouldn’t have picked up the pace on the downhill part they would have been way in front of me, as I never would have made up that missed ground.
So, I have to tell you, in the first four miles I was thinking to myself, “Crap. I am going to have to tell people after the race is over that this is exactly how not to run a race”. I was certain I had started out too fast (remember, I had intended to run 8:20/mile pace which is the pace I will need to run to qualify for Boston, and instead started out at 7:13/mile pace!). However, my competitive spirit was alive and running (no pun intended) so I decided just to keep with the pace.
I got out of the wooded trail at around mile 6 and hit another water station. This area was very rejuvenating because there were a number of spectators cheering and the terrain wasn’t quite as hilly as the first 6 miles. We ran on paved road from about miles 6-8, hitting another water station. I saw Sheridan at that point. As I ran closer to where he was standing with Lincoln I had this huge grin on my face. I think he was shocked when he heard me say, “I am running 7:30 pace!”. He gave me a nice swig of water and I knew I probably wouldn’t see him again until the finish. At one point, probably during mile 8, I felt really good physically, and had a really positive mental outlook. I remember telling myself, “remember how you feel right now and memorize that feeling. When you hit a wall during the marathon (and it is bound to happen) bring yourself back to this moment when you felt so positive”. We headed back onto the wooded trail at about mile 9 and went back to the grueling ups-and-downs with no flat ground to recover from. I just made sure that I really opened up my stride, tucked in my head, and picked up my momentum on the downhills, and then pounded it out on the uphills.
Miles 9 and 10 were the hardest. There was a lot of uphill and my stride started to tighten up a little bit. I never gave up though, ever. I remember thinking to myself, “well, you have made it this far at this pace, if you can just keep with this pace until mile 10 you should be able to finish strong (as I knew there was a lot of downhill at the end)”. I forced myself to stay present and positive. One of the ways I did this was a little corny but it helped! Whenever I saw a spectator I would smile real big and give them a thumbs up. Some “real runners” might laugh at this, or say I was wasting my energy, but that’s alright. It really helped me to keep my mind from thinking negatively! At about mile 10 one of the race organizers was walking in the opposite direction and yelled, “You are female number 18. In the top 20 great job!”. This was so motivating for me!
I knew that miles 2 and 3 were all uphill, which meant there was going to be a decent amount of downhill on the way back. Once I got to mile 11 the downhill started and I felt really good. There was one really tough uphill somewhere around 11.5 miles by the golf course that was SO steep! There were two people in front of me who stopped and walked up it. After that steep hill the final mile and a half was all flat through neighborhoods around William and Mary college. There was no mile marker for mile 12 (unless I just missed it) which would have been nice to gauge how much further I had to run.
Finally I could see the college arena. Spectators were starting to crowd the streets. One group of college girls were wearing shirts and holding signs that said, “Free Hi-Fives!”. I picked up the pace as much as possible (cursing myself for not doing more speedwork in my training) and focused on the person in front of me. I ended up getting passed by a 40-year old guy in the last 200 meters, but kicked it in as much as I could. The course finished inside the sports arena. I crossed the finish line and stopped my watch at 1:39:59!! That is an average of 7:38 min/mile pace! 42 seconds per mile faster than I had intended to run! I was really happy and proud with my time. In hindsight, I actually think I could have gone even faster on those middle miles, but I had intentionally slowed my pace down because I was afraid of dying at the end (well not actually dying, just my pace dying down).
I went through the finisher’s chute, loaded up on Gatorade and headed outside to find Sheridan. We did a 10 minute cooldown together and then stretched. I went back inside to grab a banana, bagel and two of the free beers that all the finishers received! As I was munching on my bagel I heard my name announced over the stadium’s intercom. I looked up to the main stand and to my surprise realized I was being awarded a medal! I had taken second place in my age group (25-29). I walked up to get my medal and they told me that unfortunately the chip timing wasn’t working this year and so the “official” times likely weren’t my true time. I had my own watch going so I knew my time truly was 1:39:59, but this was a little disappointing. I had lined up about 40 seconds behind the start line and my recorded time was 1:40:41. The person who took first in my age group had a time about 35 seconds faster than me, but there is no way to tell if she started right up at the front, or back where I was. Oh well, I am happy with my time and I still got a medal J
In conclusion, I have to say that I am so happy I ran this race. It was the first race I have competed in since I got pregnant with Lincoln (over two years ago!). To all my runner friends – if you are like me and had gotten out of running for a while I would strongly encourage you to sign up for a race! Even if it is just a 1-mile or 5k. It was such a thrill to get that “runner’s high” back. I forgot what it felt like to feel nervous before the race, to feel adrenaline pump through your body when the start goes off, to feel the ache of exhaustion as you are giving everything you have in the last 100 meters, and to feel the sense of pride as you hit the ‘stop’ button on your watch and see the time you finished in. To my friends who have never been a runner – I would also encourage you to sign up for a race! A 1-mile or 5k race is a great place to start! Set a goal and put a plan in place to train for the race. There are all kinds of great training programs online or send me an email and, although I don’t claim to be an expert of any sorts, I would love to help you put a training plan together.
I had a great time at this race and would definitely run this course again. I am looking forward to the Shamrock Marathon in three weeks where it is a very FLAT course. Hopefully I will be able to qualify for Boston!
1 – 7:13
2 – 7:36
3 - ?? (didn’t see the 3 mile marker)
4 – 15:20 (average 7:40 per mile for miles 3 and 4)
5 – 7:32
6 – 7:35
7 – 7:45
8 – 7:31
9 – ?? (didn’t see the 9 mile marker)
10 – 15:15 (averaged 7:37 per mile for miles 9 and 10)
11 – 7:44
12 - ??
13 - ??
13.1 – 16:37 (averaged about 7:54 per mile from miles 12-13.1)
I had written my "projected" mile times on my wrist to keep me on track. Ended up not using any of these times!
I had written my "projected" mile times on my wrist to keep me on track. Ended up not using any of these times!
Sheridan took this photo while he was sitting down in the driver's seat when he dropped me off for the race start.
The medal I was surprised to get after the race!
Lincoln was more interested in the blueberry bagel in my hand then taking a photo :)
Ok....this is right up there with one of the worst photos ever of me but oh well....I was happily exhausted!