Do the math, folks. Is the fuzzy little weather prognosticator really necessary??
But, I digress.
I ran the Bradford Valentine's Day 5 miler on February 13th. Initially, John and I were going to be running as a team in the open male/female division, but he was recuperating from a minor illness. I had family visiting from Jersey and wasn't much up to racing that particular day...in fact, I almost blew it off entirely! But, I did promise John I would pick up his shirt and, well, if I was going to go all the way over there, I might as well run it. I did a quick warm-up and toed the line. I didn't really have a strategy and hadn't planned on "racing" until halfway through the darn thing, so I wasn't expecting much. My official time was 39:36, averaging a 7:56 pace per mile. My 5 mile PR is 36:21 (Kingston 5 miler 2008), so it was nothing to write home about, but not every race is about PR'ing or, in this case, racing! At least not for me. I got a good run in, saw some people I knew, and set off to enjoy the rest of my weekend with my family.
Two rare occurrences were rapidly approaching in this particular month. One was that my husband, Michael, and I were going on vacation to Ft. Lauderdale (we don't get out much). The second one was I was doing a half-marathon. I hadn't done this distance since the fall of 2007. Seems like I either do the REALLY short stuff or the REALLY long ones. This 10K to half-marathon stuff is kind of unchartered territory. But, I had signed up for this "Will Run For Beer" Series through LOCO Running. Basically, you have six races to choose from and have to complete five out of the six. If you do that, you get a fancy schmancy jacket to show for all of your hard work. I decided I wanted that damn jacket, so I signed up. Plus, did you see what the name of the series was? Will Run For...Beer? I mean, wouldn't YOU run for beer? The first race in the series was the aptly named Hangover Classic 10K which took place on, you guessed it, New Years Day. This was race number two.
When we last left off in the blog, I was talking about how John, Ted and I were discussing our next race after we ran Boston Prep. Well, this was the race we all planned on doing. John was still working himself back to 100%, so he decided to be a spectator with my husband and cheer Ted and I on while we braved the cold and the wind (Hampton Beach is no picnic in the winter, friends).
Sunday the 21st comes and we're ready to go. We get in the car and head to the beach for my little jaunt up and down the coastline. Through a couple of text messages, we're able to locate John and Ted in the Ashworth hotel. After a brief stop at the pre-registration table, I have my number on and am ready to rock and roll. I had asked Coach whether or not it was necessary to warm-up prior to a half-marathon (I had never done that before) and he suggested I prepare just like I would for a track workout...which meant yes, Cyndi, you will warm-up for 10-15 minutes.
Ted was a willing participant, so he and I set off to jog around for a little bit before the start. This was only the second time I had met him, but it was clear we were hitting it off. He and John were becoming fast friends and it appeared that he and I weren't too far behind. Did you ever just meet someone and it seems as though you've known each other forever? Well, it was kind of like that. So, we chatted about various stuff as we warmed up. He was exactly one month out from his first marathon in LA, so this was going to be a good test to see where he was, fitness wise and speed wise. Truly, he didn't really know what he was capable of, yet. Then again, neither did I.
John and Ted had asked me what my goal for the race was. I always had the habit of keeping that information close to the vest. I sort of act nonchalant, brush it off and say, "Ah, I'll just see how I feel. I just want to run for fun." However, that's not entirely true. I am a perfectionist who has had challenges with an intense fear of failure. I am more competitive than I'll admit to anyone and want to PR everytime I run a race (shhhhh, don't tell anyone my dirty little secret).
My 1/2 marathon PR was 1:47:19, set in April of 2007 in Newmarket NH at the Great Bay Half Marathon. This was about one year before I was to run my first MARATHON, so I had definitely evolved a bit as a runner since then. I didn't really know what to expect as far as the weather or my conditioning at this distance, so being noncommittal about the time goal seemed like the best approach.
We jogged back to John and Michael, received one more "good luck" from them and headed out to the start line. This was a chip timed race, which means that your official time doesn't really start until you run over the timing mat. It's nice to start as close to the front of the pack as possible, but having the chip sort of takes the pressure off. Plus, I knew that Ted was planning to run a faster time than I was and it would be nice to start together, even if we didn't stay together long.
Ready, set and go! We were off and running. As predicted, I didn't see much of Ted, but that is okay (see my previous blog post for my "running your own race" philosophy). My first mile was an 8:10, which made me happy. I guess that whole "warming up first" thing really works after all (thanks, Coach). Miles 2 and 3 were identical 8:05 miles. Looks like I was settling into a rhythm quite nicely. But, I still had 10 miles to go.
Along the way, I tried to maintain my composure and stay relaxed. Basically, I attempted to channel my 2009 Philadelphia Marathon demeanor. I slowed up a bit in mile 4, but made it back in the 5th mile by running a 7:52.
Once I hit the halfway mark, I started feeling a bit anxious, but I was able to keep myself under control. I cruised to the 8 mile mark in style, running that lap in 7:59. Only 5.1 miles to go.
Now THIS is where the wind decided to make its presence known.
Of course, we are running by the water (it being the beach and all) and the wind can be pretty brutal. I averaged an 8:16 pace over the next three miles which was pretty respectable considering. I was starting to get tired and in my head a little too much. But, I pressed on. I knew I would see John and Michael right around mile 12, so that would give me a nice boost.
And, boy did it ever.
I ran mile 12 in 8:10. I was picking up speed! I only had 1.1 miles to go. Then, I saw them standing off on the side walk and I knew I was close. I could do this. The question remained: just how fast could I do this???
Mile 13 was a sub 8 minute mile...a 7:53 mile to be exact! I could see the finish! Digging down deep I gave it all I had, averaging a 7:41 pace for the last tenth. I crossed the line with an official time of 1:47:21. I was only 2 seconds off my 1/2 marathon PR which made me happy and slightly frustrated at the same time...happy because I was able to match my previous best...disappointed because, well, if I could run the last 1.1 miles under an 8 minute pace, that must mean I held back for fear of...you guessed it...FAILING. More on that later.
Now it was time to find Ted. After a few minutes, I spotted him in the crowd and made my way over. We hugged and congratulated each other. He ran an impressive time of 1:38:20; nine whole minutes ahead of me! But, it was all good. I was very excited for him. We had both run well and it was time for, well, you guessed it...BEER!!!
We headed back to the Ashworth for the post-race party. Smuttynose was providing delicious draft beer so of course, we camped out by that table. Eventually, John and Michael found us and joined us in a frosty beverage. We drank beer, shared our race experiences, and had lots of laughs. I was glad to have race #2 in the bag and looked forward to five days of r&r in sunny Florida.
The next racing challenge was a mere 14 days away: the 31st annual Stu's 30K in Clinton, MA.
And all three of us would be running it this time. Not only that, but the "Boston Qualifying Quest" via a spring marathon in Burlington, Vermont was about to take a very interesting turn...