Fairfield Half Marathon Recap

Half marathon #6 completed!

The Fairfield Half Marathon is a really terrific race, one that I’m likely to run again next summer. It’s mid-sized, between 3,000 and 4,000 finishers, and has a gorgeous course and enthusiastic spectators. Usually about 20 or so elites run as well, although sadly I haven’t seen them except if they run by me during warm up. This year’s winner was Habtamu Arga Wegi of Ethiopia. It sounds like it was an exciting final push if you want to read the news story linked above. The first three men came in at 1:05:31, 1:05:33 and 1:05:37.

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MIL getting ready to serve dinner


For me, it is so great to be able to race in a place that’s comfortable and I can eat my right foods. My mother-in-law is so great about doing whatever it is I need for my races. For dinner the night before, we had grilled lemon-garlic chicken, grilled vegetables (cauliflower, onions, peppers, broccoli, zucchini and carrots) and baked sweet potatoes. We ate it out on her beachside patio and it was fabulous.

The next morning, I got up at 5:30 to eat breakfast (a banana and some sweet potato/beet purée) and drink coffee. I also took some apple cider vinegar and Advil. Normally I avoid Advil as much as possible, but I wanted to keep any hip inflammation to a minimum. When I awoke, the area felt alright. On Saturday, I did a 4.3 mile run/walk over the last couple miles of the race course. Or I should say I jog/walked; I walked half a mile then jogged half a mile. I also tried to skip a little, but my hip was having none of that — too jarring. Speed was questionable, so I didn’t do any of the strides I had originally planned to do.

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Finish line party location the day before

At about 3 miles into the run (and right where the race finish line would be), I stopped to take some beach pictures.

My hip felt a little tight race morning, but not in pain. I set out on this race with a few goals:

#1 Not to get more injured
#2 Have fun
#3 Beat 2 hours if the hip could handle the hills and the speed
#4 If everything was working, a PR

I managed everything but #4.

This course is not hip-wrecking hilly like the Runner’s World Heartbreak Hill Half that I did two weeks ago, but it does have a couple tough hills. What’s interesting about them is that they are short-ish and steep. I find these a lot easier to deal with mentally and physically than the gradual inclines, although my big concern yesterday was jamming my thigh bone into my hip joint on the downhills which were equally as steep since we went over the hills both out and back. Total elevation gain is roughly 400 feet. Luckily, there is a lot of flat before, between and after the hills.

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Course elevation

I went out a hair too fast for the first four miles (not too fast if I’d had a 100% hip), but hill number 1 just past mile 2 did help settle my pace a little. Uphill number 2, which in my opinion is the hardest, started around mile three. Then we got a downhill for a bit before running through Southport town center then into Westport and Greens Farms. The course takes us by the ocean around mile 6 through 7.5. What was nice for me this run was remembering my training runs I did out there last summer. It really mentally juiced me knowing I was slower then but ran fine. I don’t know if it was reading Elite Minds, that I set appropriate race goals or what, but my negative internal dialogue was significantly minimized this race. I was more present in this race, much like I felt during the Nike Half in April. I like that feeling.

The temperature started in the mid-60s and went up to the low 70s. We had a nice breeze and a lot of shade on the course, but being in the sun was a little warm. The local fire departments put sprinklers out every mile for this race (and many locals are out with their hoses, orange slices, lemonade & ice as well, which is awesome), and I took advantage of the dousing like I did last year. It makes a difference in comfort level to be cooled down. I also took water at most of the stops, although I only slowed down a tad to get it and kept moving. I wasn’t sure how my hip would hold out if I stopped running, so I didn’t walk at all. It felt fine, but I spent a lot of time really focusing on form, which can be tiring and also uses my muscles different than perhaps how I’d been training. Form focus really ought to be ongoing, but, um, well, a bit of a fail on my part there.

Speaking of form, I believe I have a new way of dealing with down hills. I really exaggerated shortening my stride and increasing my cadence going down in order to protect my hip, and even though I felt like Fred Flintstone feet, I cruised past other runners.

Around mile 9, my iPod decided to go crazy, so I turned it off. I was listening to Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot. I’m glad I ran two of my races in Newton without my iPod because this malfunction didn’t freak me out or make me spend time fiddling with it while I ran. Instead, I just shrugged and ran on. I do wish I’d remembered I had a place to store my earbuds, but instead I left them in my ears, which was sort of silly. I get a little stupid when I run.

I may eschew iPods in races from now on. Definitely for ones shorter than a half. One less thing to fuss over.

Around mile 8.5, we got back to the big hill, this time with a slightly less steep but longer ascent. Then we go down and over a bridge, then back up one short but steep rise then about a half mile climb. But once you get over that hill just before the mile 10 marker, it’s a downhill then flat to finish off the race.

By the time I descended the final hill, my legs were just plain tired. Aerobically I was hardly working. I saw my husband just past the mile 10 marker and I was running a little on the slower side (he said he knew because he didn’t have trouble keeping up). I knew the rest of our family would be just past mile 11, so I hung onto that thought. I made sure I was on the side of the road where my sister-in-law’s house was, and there they all were: my mother-in-law, niece, nephew, brother-in-law, my son (up before noon!) and my sister-in-law with her camera. I waved and smiled and greeted the kids by name. My sister-in-law took some great pictures of me. I look relaxed and happy — they think I’m a weirdo.

I just chugged along the rest of the way. I wish I had some gas, but all the form focus had worn the old legs out. I made it a goal to keep it at around marathon pace for the remaining miles, and I succeeded at that.

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Jennings Beach walkway

Just before the beachside finish line, a section of the course ran over sand. That sucked. I felt like I was running backwards. I had no kick at the end of this one. The announcer had trouble with my last name, which isn’t really a hard name but people struggle with it anyway (it’s Dore and it’s pronounced like “door”). I know they had cameras at the finish last year, but I’d forgotten about it, so I might have a funny look on my face in a picture while the dude tried to figure out my last name.

And then it was over. 1:57:20. Nine minutes faster than last year. Not a PR, but it wasn’t a PR effort, so I am happy. My Garmin read 13.24 miles, same as last year.

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Race shirt & finisher medal

My husband met me at the finish (avoiding last year’s snafu of not realizing that with a larger race you should plan a meeting spot so you know how to find each other in the crowd), and we went to the Generation UCAN booth (I carried a handheld bottle with their Pomegranate Blueberry for fuel this race) and tried their new electrolyte product. It’s so damn good! It kicks even Nuun’s butt, and I’m a Nuun fan. Unfortunately the UCAN drink is sort of pricey. But I drank two cups of the samples and felt restored.

I skipped the hot dogs and pizza the race after-party offered. Those probably would sound appealing to me in a few hours, but immediately after a race it sounds disgusting. I’m a sober alcoholic and beer sounds horrible to me after a race, and that’s saying a lot since I used to drink despite feeling like I wanted to vomit. :P I don’t know how other runners do it, but I’ll stack both grease and alcohol aversion in the “benefits of distance running” column.

My husband and I walked back to my SIL’s (which is only a half a mile away if you walk straight there and not winding through the neighborhood like the final miles of the race). I was able to eat a turkey sandwich there and cheer on the other runners.

I truly love this race and the locals make it special. The crowd support is really nice and the water/Gatorade stops are well done. They have timing clocks at every mile. If I were to change anything, it would be to make the start time at 7 a.m. rather than 8:15. It’s June, and it’s a crap shoot over what the temps might be. Last year the end of the race was in the mid-80s. I ran/walked it then, and dumped a ton of water over my head, but I was so new to running that I didn’t know much better about how much the heat affects your running (cuz it pretty much was hard and sucky all the time for me back then as a total newbie).

One nice touch that I think was new from last year? is that at around mile 13, volunteers handed out iced, wet towels to the runners. I grabbed one of those babies and wiped down the back of my neck and it felt amazing. It was also good for wiping the salty brine off my face after I finished.

And one tiny little peeve… The start for men and women are at different places and we converge just after the first mile. I like this, but I don’t like that the men’s start gets a banner and we only have a timing mat. How much money could it be to get a banner for the women’s start? It’s not like the men’s starting banner doubles as the finish line because it doesn’t. I also wish there were additional timing mats on the course for splits and tracking, but that’s not a big deal to me, just a preference.

After a pasta dinner with delicious homemade meatballs with my husband’s family, we drove the three or so hours home.

Last night, my hip wasn’t thrilled with me when I sat for any length of time. It is less painful than it was last week. Now that I’ve only got a 4-mile race on July 4 until my October marathon, I’m looking forward to doing the strength work to fix whatever imbalance I’ve got going. It probably would’ve been wiser of me to have been a little less aggressive with my spring race schedule so that we could do strength work and not just keep me race ready. I sacrificed around 30-45 seconds per mile in speed and risked a worse injury by piling on long distance races (for those who might’ve missed earlier posts, in the last 8 weeks, I ran 3 half marathons, 1 marathon, 2 10ks and a 5k). Live and learn.

In closing, I always thought the phrase “my blisters have blisters” was pure hyperbole. Apparently not.

A Few Blog Changes

“Performing at the highest level is not about talent, ability, size, speed, facilities, equipment, weather conditions, or even effort. It’s about being free. Free from expectations of self and others, free from criticism, free from fear, and free from “should” and “have to.”

Excerpt From: Beecham, Stan. “Elite Minds.” iBooks.
This material may be protected by copyright.

Check out this book on the iBooks Store: https://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewBook?id=688575029

For those not reading my posts in a reader, hopefully you’ve noticed that my blog is undergoing some cosmetic changes. I felt like it was time to move past the Pandora’s Box theme and more into running. I’m still going to talk about my ACoN experience because it is an intrinsic part of me and how I grow and change, but thankfully my life has grown larger than my struggles with my narcissistic mother.

I’m nearly done with the book Elite Minds and I thought the quote above summed up where I want to be pretty nicely. I’ve always consciously viewed running as an internal quest for being my best, as competing with myself to achieve that best. However, unconsciously I play the comparison game and it does a lot of harm. The upside is being aware when I get that ugly feeling and being able to acknowledge it rather than stuff it down as “bad”.

I want to post a bit more frequently, although I am debating precisely what to post. I don’t want to come off as presenting myself as any kind of expert on, well, anything. I’d like this blog to be a bit of encouragement for those embarking on their own journey of self-discovery, whether dealing with PTSD from a tough childhood, attempting to get in shape after neglecting your body for decades, living sober or trying to grow older gracefully (anyone who is an expert on the latter, please contact me immediately because I feel like I’m staring into a great big black hole on this one). I hesitate to say I want to inspire people because I give a solid side-eye to people who declare themselves inspirational. How about if I say I don’t want to discourage anyone? That I would like it if I made one person feel less alone?

Or if I make you feel better about yourself because I kind of suck? Yah, I’m ok with that.

Why the Boston Marathon?

Pretty much everyone who knows even a little about running and racing knows that the Boston Marathon is the Holy Grail of races. I read somewhere that fewer than 10 percent of runners ever qualify for the race.

This by itself is almost enough for me to put myself through the training to qualify and eventually run this race, but it isn’t the main reason.

Running has been an incredibly healing act for me. It’s not a secret I didn’t have the greatest parents and that I’ve spent the better part of my adulthood trying to untangle myself from the devastation. I made a ton of mistakes, including using alcohol to cope. I also have to be mindful that I don’t use my love of running to do further harm to myself. I’m prone to literally beating the crap out of myself, whether with drink or eating disorders or  self-mutilation (at one particularly dark time, I tried to break my arm and another my leg. Fortunately, I was unsuccessful). I’m sort of shocked that I found a decent husband and stable relationship with him. My marriage also is one of the biggest factors in me being able to fight for my self-worth.

Most of my bad behaviors were ways of diverting myself from the real underlying pain. By the time I got to therapy for the first time in my early 20s, it was already my default to self-destruct rather than feel anything. Somehow, I’ve managed to have at least some small instinct of self-preservation that drives me to seek help and wants to get better.

And I am better. Much better. But as my previous post showed, there are lingering effects that come out when I try to achieve something significant, even if it’s only significant to me. When the achievement is on the line, and not just a training run that no one sees except me, I hear my mother’s voice telling me I shouldn’t even be trying. Except it sounds like my own voice.

I learned at an early age that doing too well in anything would result in some sort of punishment, usually the withholding of affection or sometimes something more devious. I wasn’t always able to put together one over-the-top punishment and my mother’s resentment of me achieving things she could not. I just knew that my mother was one rage from killing me and I never knew what thing I might do would set it off. Being invisible was the best course of action.

Boston+Marathon+signageSo, not only do I start to doubt my ability in things, I also feel like I am not allowed to benefit from my abilities. I’m simultaneously afraid of failing and succeeding. It’s a nasty double-edged sword that I tend to fall on.

But I really want to stop.

The responses to my last post helped me greatly and warmed my heart. It also reminded me that despite how my parents discouraged going to outsiders when we were in need of help, I don’t have to be an island. So, I decided to mention briefly to my running coach a little more about why I struggle in races. She responded kindly and also is sending me a DVD by a sports psychologist that helps athletes with their mental struggles.

She also suggested a book by the same psychologist, Stan Beecham, called Elite Minds. I started reading it, and it’s a terrific book. I think it’s actually already working, as I thought about it today during my 13.1 mile training run. I was struggling with the pace, but I reflected back on what I’d read, and it helped me through. I want to do a more detailed review of the book in another post once I finish. The author had me at the disclaimer when he said that the book was not for me if I was looking to be happy. But if I was looking to be the best version of me, then this might be the right book to help me. This book might be for athletes, but everything I’ve read so far applies to children of narcissists. Beecham advocates truth, both good and bad, and encourages people to confront the false truths about ourselves. Beecham also quotes Scott Peck, which many ACoNs will recognize from his book on narcissism, People of the Lie.

I’m running the Runner’s World Heartbreak Hill Hat Trick in less than 2 weeks. I’m approaching these three races as a learning opportunity in several ways:

1) The 5k race is an hour before the 10k, so I get to test out doing a longer warm up run before a race.

2) Both the 10k and the half marathon are on the infamous Boston Marathon Newton hills. I’m excited to arm myself for my future Boston race with experience of running these hills.

3) I’m participating in a shakeout run with Bart Yasso on Friday evening. Totally running-geeked out about this.

4) They are offering several seminars on running. In particular, Shalane Flanigan is talking about how women’s running is different, and there will be a seminar on course strategy for the half marathon.

5) I’ll find out how my body deals with 3 races in two days. I have to admit, this sounded much more daunting when I signed up and before I ran two marathons.

6) iPods and earphones are discouraged, so I’ll be running sans an audiobook. I’ve been thinking about trying this in races anyway since I tend to not remember anything I’ve listened to when racing.

7) I won’t be running for time. I plan to enjoy the hell out of myself while running part of the Boston Marathon course. No pressure, just practice.

The weekend will be about preparing me to run better, be a part of the running community and help me get that elusive BQ.

But why is Boston so damn important to me?

Well, I was born in Newton, Massachusetts, home of the Heartbreak Hill. I want to be reborn, goddamn it. I am going to crest those hills and cross the Boston Marathon finish line triumphant. The act of running is my journey to taking my life back.