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 Sense of Doom

Hello from Boston. It’s been a strange sort of day. I had my semi-regular pre-race “why’d I sign up for this thing?” anxiety attack. Not a full blown attack, just the kind where I feel this impending doom of nothing less than my fear of mortality. No biggie. I know the reaction is all out of proportion — it’s something I’m working on related to my PTSD. It sucks when I’m driving alone and stupid me has been listening to the audiobook of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, which doesn’t help matters. I swear I’m not a drama queen.

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HHHalf Expo. That’s it, folks.

I made it to Boston College, collected my Hat Trick bib and race shirts, and then checked into my dorm room. The expo was a bit of a bummer. I’m not sure why I expected it to be bigger. Not that I need more running stuff. Not for the first time, I realized I am a knucklehead. I signed up for a shakeout run with Bart Yasso that I thought was tonight at 6pm around the Chestnut Hill Reservoir. Well, turns out I signed up for a pre-Boston Marathon shakeout run that was the Friday before that race. So, yah. I stood up Bart Yasso.

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My bumper has a boo boo :(

After this discovery, I realized I’d have time to go to the Heartbreak Hill Running Store before dinner. When I went back to my car, this guy runs up to me to let me know some woman smashed into my bumper and then took off. He got her license plate and was going to leave me a note. This Good Samaritan tried to chase after her when he realized she was making a run for it. He also gave me his phone number if I needed to contact him for a police report. I believe he was with the Runner’s World team, and I’m so grateful he stuck his neck out to help me.

While I was on the phone with my husband trying to sort out what the hell to do, the woman actually came back. I’m not sure what prompted it, but I suspect that there was a witness may have had something to do with it. I got her info and I hope it can be sorted out with her paying for the damage.

I made it to the running store and bought myself a super cute tank top. Then I went off to have dinner in Newton Centre at a place called 51 Lincoln. They had popcorn with sriracha sauce, some to-die-for polenta fries and a delicious peach shortcake with blueberry ice cream. I also had some rigatoni Bolognese but it was just ok. My husband makes the best one ever, so I’m spoiled. I’m officially stuffed.

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Now I’m back in my dorm room, which happens to be larger and nicer than my son’s at Northeastern. It’s also lacking the pungent smell of the male dormitories. I’ll probably watch some movie on my iPad and turn in early. The 5k starts at 7:15, and I’ll want to be up plenty early for my race morning rituals. I’m not looking for any PRs this weekend, just a chance to enjoy running. So hopefully the sense of doom will not plague me tonight. I dream of a day when I can get to a starting line and feel relaxed. Logically, I know everything is going to be fine. It’d just be a lot more fun to not have to swim through the ick of anxiety to get there. 20140606-204635-74795037.jpg 20140606-204634-74794059.jpg

What’s My Problem?

Today I ran a local 10k as a fun run rather than racing. I’m only 2 weeks past my marathon, and my legs have that not so fresh feeling. I noticed after my first marathon that I felt relatively spry the week after the race, but two weeks later more fatigued. Anyone else have this experience?

Anyway, I ran this race last year and had a lot of fun. There are a ton of bands on the course. The weather was perfect — sunny and low 50s.

My legs were feeling heavy for the first half. My splits were 8:04, 8:07, 8:20. During that third mile I entertained the thought of walking, which was silly. I was thinking: “Hey, it doesn’t matter because I’m not running for time.” But then I redirected with: “If you can run a freaking marathon wanting to puke for the middle 10 miles, you can soldier through this, you wimp.”

The second half of the race includes a significant hill starting just before the mile 5 marker. I run it on a regular basis, and my best time up it was 10 days before the Nike Half Marathon last month. Today was my second fastest time, but slower by a good 13 seconds. I positive split the race a tiny bit (25:25/25:33). My splits for miles 4 through 6.2 were 8:08, 8:14, 8:45, 7:17 (.2).

3rd place in my age group of (as MaybeMarathoner says) 40-44 she-beasts.

All-in-all, I am happy with my run today. I felt comfortable through most of it except the hill and the final .2. I managed to PR the distance in a race by 7 seconds, which considering this course was much hillier than my previous PR and I’m still in recovery mode from the marathon, I consider a win.

So, here’s my issue: I never perform as well in races as I do in training runs. And when I am happy with my race performance, it’s almost always because I ran it easy rather than race. My best 10k time is 48:13, which I ran at the end of a 15 mile training run.

In other words, I have mental issues. WTF.

Granted, I clearly need to spend more time warming up before shorter distance races because it takes my body a bit of time to get into a pace. But honestly, I know it’s a psychological crap out that ruins my races. Suddenly paces that usually feel alright feel too hard to sustain. I panic that I will run out of gas. I become convinced that I suck and shouldn’t bother trying. I cave to the pressure I put on myself for a certain time. I wouldn’t be shocked if half my stomach problems in both the Disney Wine & Dine half and the Providence Marathon were due to nerves.

I’m not sure what to do to make me mentality stronger. I guess keep racing until I stop psyching myself out. I’d just like to live up to my training for once.

Am I Ready?

Hello from Providence!

It’s been awhile since I’ve been here. I remember one of my first trips was to visit my aunt when I was 14 or so for ballet camp. I stayed with her for 3 weeks and my parents said she ruined me when I got home. Whatever that meant. It still ranks among my favorite summers, take that weirdo mom. I also stayed several weeks with my maternal grandparents. I spent those weeks watching the Olympics and soap operas with my grandfather. Yes, he liked the soaps, especially One Life to Live. He wasn’t a big talker, but I still remember him saying, “Oh, Tina” with an incredulous shake of his head.

I think my mom was glad to have me away most of that summer, to be honest. My brother and sister stayed home with my mother. It was a good move for me. I almost wonder if that summer is part of what saved me (if by “saved” you mean I still became an alcoholic, but I at least found enough self-preservation to get help eventually). I definitely felt very loved that vacation.

20140503-083729.jpgAnyway, when in Providence that summer, my ballet camp friends and I wandered the town and went into the Biltmore Hotel in downtown because it had a glass elevator. Like Charlie & the Chocolate Factory‘s glass elevator! I was actually nervous at the top riding that thing (or maybe being dramatic because — hello! — 14 years old and actually being able to act 14 for a change). In retrospect, it’s not very tall. I was still half convinced we were going to blast off the top into space. Ah, imagination.

The Biltmore was built in 1922, and I remembered it as being glamorous. When my teen friends and I entered giggling into the lobby, we thought they’d kick us out for wearing street clothes.

No one blinked an eye, robbing us of our clandestine dreams. We still rode up and down a couple times before our bravery left us and we scooted back outside. Didn’t want to get picked up by the hotel police.

Our current hotel is across the street from the Biltmore. It looks very small and dated now that Providence has grown around it, but it still has the glass elevator. I may have to go ride it tomorrow after the race.

Ok, I’m old and nostalgic.

Dinner last night was disappointing. I chose a steakhouse in our hotel because it had great reviews on Open Table, Trip Advisor and Yelp. Maybe I’m a giant snob, but for $50 a steak, it was mediocre at best and I wish we’d eaten at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse across the street. Or even Cheesecake Factory. I plan to do a review on Trip Advisor of the place because I’m aggravated that it basically sucked. They did get the cook on the steak perfect, but the cut of meat was not great. I hope dinner tonight on Federal Hill will be better. I’ll be seeing my aunt (who says the place I chose is awesome), so even if it’s ok food, it’ll be good company.

20140503-084826.jpgMy husband has put me on bed rest today. Which I’m ok with. I do have a 20-30 minute shakeout run that I’ll do on the hotel treadmill once my coffee starts doing its magic. We may go to a movie later. Our hotel is attached to both a shopping mall and the convention center where the race expo is being held, and the movie theater is part of the mall. I already picked up my number yesterday, but I need to go back to the expo to pick up some other race stuff that I didn’t get yesterday. It’s a tiny expo, so I won’t we cruising around excessively. The race start is about a block away, I believe just down that street in my photo from my hotel room. You can see the Biltmore to the far right. Sorry so grungy… the window needs to be washed :P .

Also, our hotel is hosting a cheerleading championship, which means rugrats and raucous teens are crawling all over this place. I wouldn’t mind except that at 3 am some of them seemed to still be carousing, and I was not pleased.

20140503-084716.jpgMy 19-year-old boy is sort of excited about it, though. Too bad he has some studying to do for a final. Bwahahahaha!!!! No cheerleaders for you, boy.

He’s still sleeping. He thought it’d be funny to blow on my face last night when I was trying to sleep. I think he’s hoping if he’s annoying enough, we’ll start getting him his own hotel room. This picture of him is my revenge. Nice bed head.

I’m still feeling pretty calm, which is weird. I’m hoping it’s because I’m ready and not because, I dunno, I’ve given up? I don’t think I’ve given up. I did every workout on my schedule, tried to take care of my body with crosstraining, sleep and food. Whatever happens tomorrow, I can say I did my best to get me here.

I think I’m ready.

Survivor

20130412-135814.jpgI didn’t quite make my goal of under 30 minutes, but I came close at 30:11 with an average pace of 9:43 minutes/mile. I ran the entire course. But what’s cool to me is that I came in at #50 overall and made it on the first page of the finishers list. And I sprinted over the finish line. No limping here!

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Me and my number

20130413-102044.jpgThis particular race benefitted a local dog rescue and many of the racers ran with their dogs. There were also a couple little girls who ran part of the race wearing an athletic hoodie from Old Navy that I almost wore myself. Kind of glad I didn’t. Not that I mind buying in the child-sized department because prices are better, but those girls might’ve been mortified, especially if we were mistaken as related.

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We have the same hoodie

I have another 5k next weekend, and I hope to beat my time. I feel so proud of me right now, it’s ridiculous. Not a bad performance for a couple months training and my first grown up race.

And, yes, I heard “Eye of the Tiger”.

5k pace

My approximate race pace. Forgot to turn my GPS watch off at the end.