Monday, May 30, 2011

Thanks & Welcome! (oh, and Half Marathon Report)

Thank you SO much to all of you who have recently begun to follow my blog! I am very grateful that you have joined my little band of readers. I’m not entirely sure if increasing my readership will improve my opportunity to be sponsored by nuun to run Hood to Coast, but it sure can’t hurt! And who knows what other events may be around the corner? Having additional eyeballs on this site may afford me things I cannot even predict.

More importantly, I would be very happy and grateful to have your feedback, advice, dumb jokes, enormous sums of money… ya know, whatever ya got! And please, if you are a blogger, send me your link because I certainly want to know what you’re up to.

Okay, on to the race report! (Pictures will be added to this post as soon as I am back in NH... But I took the time to write this at 5AM on Memorial Day so I wanted to get it up ASASWIWA... Or, As Soon As Starbucks Wireless Internet Was Available!)

Yesterday (Sunday) I ran the Johnny Kelly Half Marathon in Hyannis, MA. It was one of 3 races (a 5K and 7.2 race were also organized) at the event. In total there were about 1,500 runners.

We drove down to Cape Cod on Saturday. Lucky for me, my in-laws live in Cotuit, MA so we scored a beautiful and FREEEEE! place to stay for the weekend. Saturday afternoon we took it easy at the house. The boys played in the sprinkler and got me sucked into a fairly intense game of tag. (Intense being relative… they are 7 & not-quite-5…) I got an unsettling headline/vision in my head after a few minutes of this: Local Runner Breaks Ankle Hours Before Half Marathon Because She Was “It”. So, we opted for low-impact Hide & Seek and everyone was happy. Early dinner, early bed and I felt ready for the race.

I woke up at 5AM on race day. I set the alarm for 6 but was not surprised that I was up so early. I forced myself to stay in bed until 5:45 when I heard the boys rattling around. (I love how easily they go to bed at night but WHY do they still wake up before 6AM EVERY day!??) One of the luxuries of G.G. & Papa’s house for them is a TV in their bedroom. So, they suckled on the teet of PBS Kids while I took a shower.

A bagel and nuun drink (Really. I actually drank it. I’m not pandering for their support! Okay, I AM pandering for their support, but I DID actually drink it!), chai tea, and water later, Scott and I were out the door at 7AM. (Another in-law advantage: don’t have to drag the kids to the race start!) We didn’t need to leave so early, come to find out. We had a pleasant enough time waiting for the start on the Village Greens of Hyannis. I only wish we had remembered to bring our "Spot the Kennedy Board Game" to pass the time. (That one is actually made up, by the way).

The BIG news on the start/finish area was the port-o-potties. They had, get this, RUNNING WATER! I couldn’t believe it! Of course, it was still gross, but there were foot pedals to flush the toilet and wash your hands. Amazing. Thankfully, I opted with just 20 minutes to the start to go a second time…. I cut it very close to the gun but WOW there was a lot ‘o pee! (New readers should know, because I’m sure it will come up again, I have a teeny bladder and my only super power is that I always, ALWAYS have a little pee in me. It’s a useless skill, but it’s the only one I’ve got!)

The start was not totally auspicious. After having my first-ever running-related ear drum injury on the start line (I was a little too close to the speaker for the announcements and the Star Spangled Banner), the race began. It wasn’t until after the gun that I realized I had lined up in the 10:00 pace section. Given that I was shooting for under 8:00 pace I got a little nervous. In addition, my Garmin watch (not the fancy kind with the GPS but the less $$ kind with a foot pod to keep your pace & distance) went from timer mode to time telling mode before I hit the start line. I looked down to click it as I went over the start mat and I had yet another teeny heart attack. You should know that this watch is awesome but I am apparently a Monster because I can’t get one to not fall apart on me. I break the wristbands off after just a few months of wearing them. So, the plan is to have this watch in my hand and in my running skirt pocket. The little button to get it into “timer” mode is tricky (I think there is a fine layer of Gu or gels on it). It took me a good :30 or so to get it going. So I’m weaving in and out of 10:00-ers, trying to get the flippin’ flappin’ freakin’ watch to the right mode and BAM, the race takes a sharp left turn after only about 200 yards. AAAAAGGGH!

Things settled down fairly quickly after that. I found a good stride, the first song on the iPod shuffle was “Walking on Sunshine” (hey, cheese motivates me, okay??), the day was overcast and not too, too hot. It was all good. I had planned to keep my watch in my hand for the whole race but I thought back on my last half (in March) when I forgot the watch all together and decided that I would check my pace every mile or so but not be a lunatic about it. (That March race was SO fun, mainly because I had no watch to bark at me.)

The course was flat and seemed to be a slight downhill for the first couple of miles. My Garmin checks showed me going anywhere between 7:20 and 7:45. This was on the fast-side (watch for a future post about the Vortex of Fast and the Vortex of Slow…) but I kept checking in with my body with my age-old question for the first half of long races “Can you do this forever?” and the answer seemed to be “yes.”

I noticed by about mile 4 that the humidity was wearing on me. My stomach felt cramp-ish and I began to get an “uh-oh” feeling. I really wanted to ignore it and keep my pace up because it was manageable. But, I know enough to know that cramps like that are caused by dehydration and will not go away with out fuel/hydration/electrolytes. I slowed down enough to drink some nuun and water from the hydration belt and promised myself I would take a Gu at mile 5.

I kept my pace fairly well (that is, whenever I bothered to check it) as the race wound out of town and down some beautiful back roads, along some bays and estuaries. (There are worse things, for sure, but some of the smells out of these places were, ummm, not my favorite!) The other runners were not terribly chatty and, honestly, neither was I. Unlike the half in March, I had a PR to make and so I was less “me” along the route. I did manage my personal “race manners minimum” and thank all of the Police Officers who were stopping traffic and all the volunteers along the way. I found that any time I did interact with a spectator or volunteer it boosted my spirits, despite of costing me precious energy. It’s a fine line….

Just before the half-way point of the race, those who were running the 7.2 race split off to head for the finish line. There was a woman who I had spotted at about mile 2 who I decided was my Doppleganger (unlike “Crazy Arm Lady” who was surprisingly speedy given her bizarre form and “Totally Intense Based On Nothing But Her Top and Hair Cut Lady” who scared me a little). Doppleganger had a short ponytail, not unlike mine, and although she wasn’t wearing pink knee socks or a running skirt like I was, I felt that we were kindred. Strange how these things work out in our brains. Anyway, I was keeping her in my sights and then she completely broke my heart by veering off for the 7.2! I even yelled to her as she went (we hadn’t exchanged a word before this): “NO! You’re my doppleganger! I was going to stick with you!” She replied, “Not this year. I’m working 80-hour weeks. NEXT YEAR!” It was a funny and sweet moment and TOTALLY the reason I love running road races.

At this point in the race I was getting kind of beat. I was getting VERY hot. I had taken to drinking the Gatorade at each water stop and dumping the cup of water over my head. This lead to my earphones slipping quite a bit but it was DEFINITELY the right call. I think the electrolytes/carbs saved my bacon for sure. My stomach continued to do funny things (I took more Gu at mile 9) but it wasn’t cramping it was just sort of announcing its presence.

I kept my watch in my hand for the final mile. Because of the snafu with my watch at the start I wasn’t sure how far or long I’d really run. My watch was being generous, telling me I’d hit all the final miles long before I reached the marker in the road. I was anxious because despite my periodic glances through out the race telling me I was sub-8:00 (except one rare hill when I was at 8:18) I knew I was cutting the PR very close. There weren’t a lot of runners around me. I passed one woman just after the 12-mile mark and ahead of me by about 20 yards were another man and woman. I was just trying to hold on and did not have the fire in my belly to try and catch them.

The end of the race takes you through a Rotary (a.k.a. traffic circle, a.k.a round-about, a.k.a. “Look, Kids! Big Ben! Parliament!”) and down the Main Drag (but not Main Street) of Hyannis. There weren’t a ton of spectators until the very end. Just as I was starting to see a crowd ahead, my iPod shuffle gave me yet another mini-miracle. Last September as I was finishing my PR/Boston-qualifying marathon, the theme from Indiana Jones came on the iPod. It was the PERFECT song for such a great moment and yesterday, once again, iPod gods favored me with the same song for the end of my race! Can you ever go wrong with a John Williams anthem? I submit that you cannot.

So, I looked ahead and saw Scott and the boys, my in-laws and even Scott’s Aunt Barbara and Uncle Bob who also live on the Cape. The race director was standing at the 13-mile mark and said “You’re at 1:43:58, just 200 yards to go!” I knew from that it was almost impossible for me NOT to break 1:45. (Even if I jogged, my chip time was about 30-seconds behind the gun time so I knew I was cool). I was VERY happy to turn the last corner and finish. Another woman snuck up behind me for a sprint finish and so I turned it up “to 11” for the last 20 yards or so and she and I finished together. Typical of a woman, she apologized for trying to beat me! I assured her it was great and I’m happy she had someone to chase! I know I would have said the same thing to someone if I had finished that way. Why do we apologize for our strengths!?!

Anyway, I wasn’t sure of my exact finish time but I knew for sure I had broken 1:45 and PR’d by at least a minute. Later in the afternoon the interweb told me I had run 1:44:19, I finished 12 (out of 100 or so) in my division and 120 overall (out of 650 or so). My pace was 7:57. I am happy about this.

But…. Well, another post to go into why there’s a “But…”

Thanks for reading and please let me know what’s on your mind!