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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Tastes Great-Less Filling

And Beer Race #4 is: the 4th Annual Great Bay Half-Marathon in Newmarket, NH. The organizers were advertising this race as "Great Bay Lite": 10% less hills and a spectacular downtown finish. I did the 1st Annual Great Bay Half back in 2007. It was the 2nd half-marathon I had ever done and was my PR (1:47:19) Once again, this was Cyndi pre-marathon, so I didn't really have an idea of a time goal. I just wanted to beat my first 1/2 marathon time (Baystate 2006 1:52:57).

And I did. By 5 minutes and 40 seconds, even.

As you may remember, I did the Hampton Half in 1:47:21. That was in February, in colder temps and wind. Between the clever advertising, improved weather conditions and my brand spanking new running skirt, I figured I had this one in the bag.

They had the option of packet pickup the day before as well as the day of the race, so I took advantage of the former option, for two reasons. First, I was spending the day with my brother and thought this might be a scenic ride for us to enjoy. Secondly, and I think you already figured this one out if you've been reading along, if I went the DAY before, I would know EXACTLY where I was going the day of!

Sense a theme here? At least I am consistent.

John and Ted were planning on doing Great Bay as well; John as the best spectator/cheerleader ever, and Ted as a hopeful PR'er (is that even a word? Well it is now.) I also offered to pick up Ted's chip, bib # and shirt so he wouldn't have to stand in line the morning of our half. If the guy was willing to run an entire marathon with me in May, I figured this was the least I could do in return.

I got there super duper early on Sunday morning and had my pick of places to park (try saying THAT five times fast). The race started at the Newmarket High School, but I decided to park at the Elementary School a little further away, figuring it'd be easier to get out when the time came to head home. I let John and Ted know, via text, where I was, visited the bathrooms a couple of times (can I get a "hell yeah" for indoor plumbing??) and got myself ready to go.

Once they arrived, we headed out so Ted and I could warm-up. I met a really nice woman, MJ, at the school while I was waiting for the guys, so we invited her to come along for the fun. We jogged around for 10-15 minutes, took our gu and headed to the start. John was on the sidelines ready to wish us well. We said our goodbyes and took our places in the pack of runners ready to take off. I wished Ted a good race, we hugged and it was game on. Once again, I didn't have a goal time in mind...or at least a goal time I was willing to share with them out loud.

I could go through a play by play of the race, but let me just post my GPS splits here. Then, I'll summarize my experience during the race:

Lap 01 -- 7:55
Lap 02 -- 8:04
Lap 03 -- 7:58
Lap 04 -- 8:26
Lap 05 -- 8:21
Lap 06 -- 8:03
Lap 07 -- 8:06
Lap 08 -- 8:07
Lap 09 -- 8:12
Lap 10 -- 8:20
Lap 11 -- 7:49
Lap 12 -- 9:06
Lap 13 -- 9:11
Lap 14 -- 1:15 (7:04/mi)

As you can see, there was a SIGNIFICANT drop off in my pace for Laps 12 and 13. Right around mile 11, I started getting the Hartford panic. I'm not sure what it is with that mile 11, but man, it is NOT my favorite number at ALL. First of all, it was pretty warm for an April day, so of course, that always has a bearing on your performance. Secondly, I must mention the "lite". I sort of assumed from reading the course description that major hills were pretty much over by mile 9. If you look at laps 10 and 11, you can see that my body did too. However...they really weren't.

As I was completing Lap 11, I was in this neighborhood they call "the lollipop". Think about what a tootsie roll pop looks like and that's kind of what it was. You ran down a road and did a huge circle around, and then headed out the way you came in. So, as you are entering the lollipop, you see all the speedy folks going out (like Ted) and as you exit, you see the not so speedy ones coming in. As I was leaving this neighborhood, I was overwhelmed with the desire to walk.

So I did.

But, unlike Hartford, I didn't quit. I allowed myself 30 second walk breaks and then ran 1 minute. I alternated this pattern for the next 1-2 miles until I saw John and thought, "oh crap, he can't see me walk. Crap, crap, crap!" As a result, you can see the last lap was super speedy. Once I saw the finish line, I knew that I could push myself extremely hard since it would be over in a minute or so.

I saw Ted waiting as I crossed and he hugged me. I was physically and mentally drained. I felt like I had been punched, kicked, bit and spit on about a dozen times. I was BEAT like a rented mule. Ouch, ouch, and ouch.

We made our way down the hill where the post-race celebration was...and where the food and drink was. I was so slow moving, so out of it...almost like in shock. I just wandered around. Then, John came after me, kind of sensing that I wasn't quite right. He gave me a hug and I was choking back tears. I just said to him, "it was so hard. I am so tired." As luck would have it, there was a little stream/pond area at the bottom of the hill. We walked over to it and John suggested I walk in and stand in the cold water to soothe my legs, which were probably a little inflamed, not to mention pissed off. It was like a homegrown ice bath, pretty much.

I did a lot of standing around (as were many other shell shocked runners) and not a lot of talking. Once I finally got some food and drink in me, I started perking up. Then, I started the chatter: maybe it was the heat...maybe I started off too fast...maybe it was the track workout I did earlier in the week. On and on it went. Truth of the matter was, it didn't matter what it was. You can't go back. What's done is done. No need to do an autopsy on the damn thing. It's just a race, for the love of Pete-just let it GO!!! (that is what the voices were telling me, btw).

The race results were posted. Here were my stats:

Net Time

Avg Pace

#254 overall

14/106 F35-39

I wasn't really happy or sad. I was just...blah. Kind of, well, blah. Just sort of indifferent and sulky. The good news was that Ted placed 2nd in his age group (M45-49) with a stellar time of 1:36:30. Even though I wasn't happy for me, I was happy for him and John and I cheered super loud when he went up for his award. As I said before, I did perk up after the food and drink, but resumed my sulkiness on the ride home.

John and Ted came back to my place post-race for a shower and some Coronas (perfect on a hot day). Once we were all cleaned and liquored up, we watched some golf and relaxed a bit. I wasn't exactly Superbi*ch, but wasn't sugar, spice and everything nice either. I had begun my foray into "wallowing". Thankfully, they're pretty good at putting up with me and my husband was there as a buffer. We said our goodbyes, they headed back to Boston and I commenced to ride the couch for the remainder of that Sunday.

After swapping some emails back and forth with the guys on Monday, John said he had a couple of theories about what had happened with me on Sunday if I wanted to hear them. I said I would be interested in talking about it some more so we made plans to chat on the phone later on that evening.

We talked for a good 30 minutes. First, he mentioned the generic stuff, i.e. the weather, the course and how I may have started off too fast. They were all very valid points and I could appreciate every one of those. Then, he brought up the not so generic stuff.

"You're afraid to fail," he said. "That's why you never tell us what kind of a time you want to run."

Ah, so I'm not as complicated as I like to think I am. Of course he was right. I had suspected that for a while. I just didn't know it was obvious. Perhaps it's not to the casual observer, but John and I were very good friends as well as training partners. All it really takes to see me for what I am is someone who gives half a sh*t about me and is paying attention. I don't hide my feelings well, even if I think that I do.

We talked some more about it and I could just feel the relief flooding over me as we spoke. I told him he was a great friend, that our talk was very helpful, and I'm so glad we are training partners. After I hung up, I just felt lighter.

Ted and I emailed a bit the next day. I had received an inspirational email that I felt compelled to share with he and John, particularly because the timing of it was so spooky. The underlying message of it was simply this: The main factor for dramatic success or failure lies within. After I emailed it to them, Ted replied back sharing his experiences along the road to his first marathon. This excerpt in particular spoke to me:

This is the truth: failure is everything - strive for it because it is the only way you will know exactly what you can do; what you can do AND DO defines you, and therein lies self-esteem. It does not matter what it looks like on the outside so long as you know you tried to fail and gave your maximum effort.

Talk about hitting home! It was time. Time to fess up. I replied back to him:

Those are great words and very inspiring.

John knows me better than I think…in fact, I think I’m so mysterious and complex. I’m really not. Anyone that takes a little time to get to know me and gives half a s**t has me pegged in no time.

I’m afraid to fail. I am afraid to say I’m going to do something and then to see it not happen. I am not just afraid of it. I am terrified. And I am terrified of others seeing it and shaking their head saying to themselves, “I knew she was too good to be true.”

So, there it is. I’ve said it.

I’m so afraid of being anything less than perfect, I limit myself…I tell myself it doesn’t matter…even if it does. I can’t bear the thought of being “less than” and have talked myself into believing that if you don’t try, you won’t fail…therefore you won’t lose.

And, for the most part, I have been able to skate through the first 38 years of my life with this mindset because, more often than not, I do more than most…without trying very hard.

But I lose. Every single time I do this.

The good news is that a belief is just a thought you keep on thinking. Even though I’ve carried it around with me for a very long time, I can choose what I think about from now on since I have learned how powerful our thoughts are. And then I’ll be able to fail.

The lesson I got out of this entire experience was simply this: everything that happens is for the good. If it wasn't for my friends and this 1/2 marathon, I wouldn't have had this epiphany. I saw it for what it was. I acknowledged it was there and I accepted it. I didn't try to push against it anymore and, most importantly, I gave myself a break for the first time in a long time.

Great Bay 2010 may not have been my fastest half-marathon, or my strongest performance. But, I wouldn't trade it for the world, because it brought me to where I am right now. For that, I am so appreciative. Maybe the race didn't "taste great", but the sweetness of what it taught me sure does.

Less baggage = less filling.

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