Mind over matter...Never give up

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Grand Strand Turkey Trot, November 25, 2010

I was looking forward to my annual Thanksgiving Day run in Surfside Beach, SC. We go there every Thanksgiving to visit Keith’s parents and every year I consider running the local Turkey Trot but never have since it’s usually cold or raining or no one else wants to go watch or some other excuse. But I always do go for a run either near the beach or around the local neighborhood. So when I was about 1 hour into the 3.5 hour trip and had a sudden realization that I packed everything BUT my running shoes, the quest for a local running shop began. I could have just opted to run barefoot on the beach but was thinking it may be too cold for that and my calves would be really sore after that. Plus I can always use running shoes, as Keith pointed out. So I had the green light to buy some. However the local roads we take have almost no signal so it took forever to search on the iphone for a local running store, only really to discover there wasn’t one or at least one I could find. So we found the mall with the nearest Footlocker and hoped for the best. The biggest store in the Myrtle Beach mall was the Bass Pro Shop, it was huge! So if I wanted hunting or fishing gear I’d be all set, but running shoes were a different story. Not to be a shoe snob but most runners will probably agree that you have your favorite brands and running shops and really prefer those so it’s hard to then go to Foot Locker instead. But it was that or no shoes, so I tried to keep an open mind. Well good thing that there was also a Finish Line in that same mall because Footlocker was truly sad. They only had one pair of Saucony’s which I asked if they could tell me about because I hadn’t heard of them before. The woman told me they were “good, real good” shoes. I was kind of hoping for information on whether they were a cushioned or stability shoe or something beyond “they’re good”. I tried them on anyway as I was desperate and they were not “real good” but felt like the sole was made of one inflexible piece of moulded plastic. I passed on those and asked about some Nike’s but they didn’t have my size so I moved along to the Finish Line. While not much better they did have a few Nike’s and Asics. I asked about the Saucony’s but the girl had no idea what I was referring to and then said “oh you mean Saw coney”. I am fairly sure that I was pronouncing them correctly as I had in the past looked up how to pronounce them on their website. However I was corrected both in Footlocker and Finish Line, clearly the running shoe experts. By that time I just figured I should stick with what I know, so I tried my old favorite Asics Nimbus and then also tried a 2150. The 2150’s were on sale and I ended up getting a coupon from the woman in front of me who was trying to use two coupons for one purchase with no success. So not a bad deal overall.

We got to Keith’s parents house later than planned due to that little detour but went out to a nice dinner at Gordon Bierch, a brew pub in a fairly new and our favorite shopping center in the area, Market Common.

The next morning, Thanksgiving, I got up around 7:30 and got dressed in my running clothes but wasn’t in any particular rush to head out. It was a little after 8am when I was ready to head out the door and then I remembered the email I had received on the Turkey Trot and pulled it up to just see when it started. I assumed it was 8am since most races are that time or earlier but was surprised to see it was at 9am and registration was open until 8:30. It was pretty close by so I decided to go for it once I got in the car. I figured if it was too crowded I could always just head to the beach to run but it was a nice day and Market Common was a nice area and that’s where the race was. It was easy to get to and easy to park. I filled out the registration form and then found out they didn’t take credit cards and I didn’t have enough cash, however Keith left his wallet in the car so I “borrowed” $20 from him and registered for the race. I chose the 8K as that is the traditional Turkey Trot distance for some strange reason and since I would probably have run 5 or more miles anyway if I was going to run at the beach. I knew later that I’d be wishing I’d registered for the 5K, likely right about at the 3 mile mark of the 8K!

I immediately got in the bathroom line because I always need to do that before a race and then went to the car to stretch a bit. I had not of course planned for this race like I usually do, so had no Powerade or Gu or other food for that matter in the car. I had eaten a granola bar before I left the house and had a bottle of water that was now almost empty. It was then that my lower back, which had been sore in the past few days, likely from assembling lots of playroom furniture or from lifting Grace up, was starting to hurt. But it was 20 minutes to start time and with very little water and not much experience taking advil just prior to a race start, I decided to just hope the adrenaline would keep the pain away. I headed for the bathroom line one last time and ran over to the start.

It was quite different than the local Raleigh/Cary races. Not many people trying to get right up on the starting line, which was surprising especially since there were no timing mats at the start. They did have a D-Tag for the shoe but the mats were only at the finish, not the start or at any splits. So I got right up front, knowing that I wanted my time to be the most accurate it could be even though I hadn’t trained for this race at all and in fact only decided to run it less than 1 hour ago. The 5K and 8K started together then would split off and then meet up again, which is never really the best plan as those still running the 5K by the time the 8K meets up with them again are usually the people walking or jogging it really slowly. So the 8K folks have to weave in and out of the 5K people and the 5K people really have to be careful of not getting run into by someone in the 8K trying to achieve a time goal.

The start went well, with there being no problem getting out near the front. Of course there were several men and a few women to jumped right out in front at top speed. I just hoped that most of the women were running in the 5K and not the 8 because I was already going too fast and would never be able to catch up. So I decided that I’d just have to run my own race at my own pace and whatever happened, happened. The first mile went by fast, as it usually does. I ran that way too fast like I usually do in under 6:30 so I knew I’d slow down in mile 2. I ran the second mile much slower, but probably somewhere less than 7:15 pace. I decided that I’d try to keep that average pace for the last 3 miles. It was at the start of mile 3, like right after the 2 mile marker, that I started to wish I chose the 5K instead. There was a water stop at mile 2 which I was glad for. It was quite warm for November, probably in the high 60s by that point. I was pretty warm but not warm enough to just run in my sports bra (not sure I’d ever be warm enough for that!) so I just drank the entire cup of water and hoped the race would be over soon.

It felt like it took forever to get to the halfway point as this part of the race is now split from the 5K and so the group had thinned out a lot. There was one guy about 50 yards in front of me and then a few in the distance beyond that but that was all I could see. There was a turnaround coming up however so I’d soon be able to see how many people, and specifically women, were in front of me. And I’d also be at the 3 mile mark thank goodness. I was feeling tired and thirsty but just tried to keep my legs moving. My new shoes seemed to be fine, which was good because of course you are never supposed to race in new shoes. I just kept thinking how much better I’d probably be doing if I had my Saucony Kinvara’s since they are so much lighter than the Asics I bought. But at least I wasn’t bare foot, I don’t think I could do that! As I approached what was probably 2.75 miles, I started to see the front runners pass by heading back towards the finish. A guy wearing the race number 100 was in first place and had a good lead. I recalled seeing him at the start and he seemed to be one of the few who was interested in standing right on the starting line, so I am assuming he won last year and earned his 100 race number. Then I saw the first woman and she was running pretty fast and effortlessly. Several other men passed and another woman. And then I saw a third woman, who was probably about 100 yards ahead of me. So I was fourth woman overall at that point. I hit the turn around at about 3 miles and then could see who was behind me. There were a few women fairly close but I wasn’t really focused on that as I was quite tired and still thirsty and ready to be done. So I just tried to focus on keeping up the 7:15 pace. I did slow at one point to over 7:30 but quickly willed myself to pick it back up.

I then realized that I was getting closer to the woman ahead of me. She seemed to be slowing slightly and gradually. I felt that if I could just maintain my pace I may pass her but it wasn’t my goal since I wasn’t feeling too energetic. And I thought if I passed her and she decided to fight for her place, I would not be able to win that fight. So I tried to maintain but still hold back a little behind her. As I approached the 4 mile mark, however, the 8K and 5K rejoined and at about that time I passed the woman in the number 3 spot and also a guy running around her same pace. I just kept going, afraid to look back. I kind of had the element of surprise since she really didn’t know if I was in the 8K or 5K as I passed just after the two groups merged. I felt a bit guilty for passing so close to the end though, but all is fair in road racing. I was really struggling by that point, feeling like I really wished I did the 5K, so I just tried to maintain and hoped no one was closing in behind. The last part of the race goes around a nice little lake but I was not really enjoying the scenery by that time, I was just grunting and spitting a lot due to dry mouth by that point. Quite a pretty sight I am sure! I could see the finish on the other side of the small lake. It seemed so far away but I knew I’d be done soon so I tried to pick it up to keep my spot but never looked back. I sprinted to the finish as best I could, finishing in 35:31. I have only run one other 8K that I can recall, the St. Patty’s 8K in Raleigh. Since that was a terribly hilly course and very hot day, this was a PR by far. The pace was similar to a few longer races I’d run recently so for sure if I’d been training I could have done better, but 3rd place overall and a PR are pretty good!

Of course this meant having to wait around for the awards ceremony. I was not feeling so great but felt much better after forcing down a banana and some water. I decided I probably had time to walk back to where I parked the car so I could get a warmer shirt and call or text Keith to tell him how I did. I had texted him just before the race start to tell him I had decided to run the race. I walked/jogged over to the car and my calves were pretty sore. I decided to drive back over to the finish and some roads were still blocked so I was hoping I wouldn’t get lost and miss the awards. I was able to part close to the finish and went over to check on the results. When I first saw them I was shocked to see that a woman finished first overall and then was a bit disappointed to see that I wasn’t 3rd overall but really 4th. I figured I must have counted wrong and just missed that first woman somehow. But as I looked closer I saw her time was 22 minutes, which is a sub 5 min mile so thought uh something isn’t right there. It didn’t take long to figure out that she really had run the 5K and somehow got misassigned. So once they removed her I was back to 3rd again.

As I went over to the race table to be sure they were aware of the error (they were and were fixing it) another woman, the one I had passed at the 4 mile mark, was also heading over to the table as her time had not been recorded at all. I knew she came in shortly after me so I was ready to confirm that for them if needed. She was assured they would fix it. She wasn’t 40 yet, so she’d get an award for first in her age group. We chatted a bit and I found out she is a Marine stationed in the desert, I assumed Iraq but not sure if she really said that specifically or not. She was visiting her parents who lived about 35 miles away and registered even later than I did, shortly after the 8:30 am cutoff, which was probably why her time didn’t get recorded initially. We chatted a bit about races and running and Thanksgiving plans. It was nice to meet her and I still felt bad about passing her at the end. Then when it came time for the awards, I received mine, a large tile with the race logo painted on it that said 8K 3rd place overall female. I thought I should stay at least until the age group awards to see her get her award and unfortunately they had not fixed the stats like they promised and skipped over her for the award. She headed back over to the table to try to get it corrected. I felt bad and while I was proud of my award I asked a guy standing near me if he could take my picture with my award because I decided that I’d go over and give her mine. This way I’d still have a photo of my award. I ran over and offered to give her the plaque but she said that it was ok because they were going to order one and have her’s sent to her overseas. So in the end I did get to keep my award and hopefully she’ll receive hers in the mail soon. She headed out for the long drive back to her parents house and I headed back for a shower and a yummy breakfast. It was a great race, and nice to meet the Marine that I met at the race. Later I learned that there was a competing Turkey Trot being held at Surfside Beach at 8:30am, where I usually run when I am down there. It was quite clear from their website that they were previously affiliated with the other Turkey Trot at one time and there was some sort of falling out. Their website was so negative and anti “other Turkey Trot” which turned me off. So it was good that I decided to run the one being held in Market Common instead of running in my usual spot. In the end I finished 14 of 183 overall, 3rd overall female and 2 of 19 in my age group. While I was quite sore and tired later that day, I was very glad that I ran my first Turkey Trot! Maybe next year the kids will come to run the “Tot Trot” or the 1 mile race.

ATT 10 Miler, October 23, 2010

What was I thinking, after not running very much since April??? Well, I have to say it’s all Carl Grace’s fault! Sorry Carl but it’s true. I had not really been training for anything since Boston in April, and really I didn’t train all that much for that but really just tried to maintain since NYC in Nov 2009. But a few months before the American Tobacco Trail (ATT) 10 miler Carl emailed a few RTR folks to see if anyone was running the ATT 10 miler. I had wanted to run it at some point since I volunteered at it the year before. So since I hadn’t picked any fall race to motivate me to run, I thought that may be a good one. I heard it filled quickly sometimes so I decided to register early. I think that Carl ended up not coming out from SF for that race but since I was signed up I was committed at that point. I was doing some 10 mile runs on the weekends but as the race got closer I really had cut back on that and also my runs during the week. I was busy with work and other things and wasn’t as focused on running. Then suddenly the race sort of snuck up on me! I thought about drop out and not running it, but decided I could probably run the 10 miles since it was a flat course.

Until the morning of the race I really hadn’t looked much into where the parking was which is unusual for me. I did pick up my race packet the day before at Inside Out Sports in Cary. In the morning I decided to take the risk and try to park in the White Oak Church parking lot which was supposed to have limited parking. I headed out a bit early in hopes that it wouldn’t be full yet since I didn’t want to have to take a shuttle from the parking at Thomas Brooks Park which was a few miles away. I like to have my warm clothes nearby at the finish of a race. I was lucky and got a spot. I then jogged over to the race finish area to pick up my chip and of course use the port a potties a few times. I then asked around about where the start was since I had never run the race before. The women had a separate start from the men, which I thought was cool. It was 10 minutes ahead of the men.

I tried to get near the front of the starting line since awards are often by gun and not chip time. Not that I expected an award but still it’s good to be well positioned just in case! This was my first real local race in the “masters” category. I wasn’t sure what the competition was in that group for this race but knew that another race, the Run for Healthier Babies, was being held in Morrisville that same day. Since that race it part of the Second Empire Series I suspected that many speedy folks would be there. I had run that race and the series last year and it was a great race.

By the time the women started it was getting a bit warmer so I took off my long sleeve shirt and decided to run in shorts and a tshirt. It was a bit brisk but I knew I’d warm up and would rather be a bit cold than too warm for a race. It was also my first race and probably longest distance with my Saucony Kinvaras. I was hoping they’d hold up to the 10 miles and not result in any unusual soreness or injuries. As the women took off, I was positioned pretty far in the front and could see the leader for the first quarter mile or so, which meant I was probably running way too fast! I did the first mile super fast but felt pretty good so didn’t consciously slow it down too much but instead decided to let that happen gradually. Mile 2 also felt pretty good. It was at mile 3 that I wished I was running the other race that day, the Run for Healthier Babies 5K. I was concerned that I was feeling tired so early in the race. However by mile 4 I felt better after a bit of Gatorade. I picked the pace back up a bit in miles 4 and 5 and used a Hammer gel around that point as well, which probably helped. During much of the race I could see but never catch a woman who I had only known from a prior race as the 60 year old woman who kicked my butt. She had run the Tobacco Trail half marathon and was running the same pace as I was for much of that race. I knew she was older but mainly due to her silver/white hair, because her body was way more fit that mine and most other women in the race. But in the last 3 miles she took off and finished ahead of me. I later found out that she was 60 years old. Wow, hope I can do that at 60! And there she was again, this time ahead of me from about mile 1 onward. I knew this time however that she was pretty speedy and I decided I would not focus on her but focus on my time. I could see her for much of the race so wasn’t too far behind but just far enough that she was always out of my reach.

It felt pretty good to reach the turnaround at just over mile 5. I was tired already and had a long way to go, but could see that there weren’t that many women ahead of me and I don’t believe that any men had passed me by that point (remember they started around 10 minutes later). I had passed one or two women leading up to the turn around. Mile 6 wasn’t too terrible but by mile 7 to 8 my calves and feet started to feel crampy, much like the issues I had in both recent marathons that caused me to stop dead in my tracks for a few seconds. I decided that I would try mind over matter and just decide that the cramps would not be that bad or cause me to stop. A few times I thought for sure they would win, but somehow I kept it from fully surfacing and kept plugging along. By mile 8 and 9 that was really what I was doing. I had really slowed down a lot by that point so really was just trying to make it to the finish. Some men passed me during the second half of the race but not a large number. The women were quite spread out by this time and so the now 61 year old woman was ahead of me and no one was close enough behind to worry about. It stayed that way, except for the men catching up, for the rest of the race. The last mile felt like it was a real struggle and up hill which is all relative I guess on the flat ATT. I was very happy to finally see the finish line and tried to give it my all to get to the end before the cramps in my legs/feet stopped me. I was happy to stop and walk and tried to walk off the cramps as I went to the car to get my change of clothes.

I knew my time of 1:12:28 was close to my PR time but wasn’t sure if it was a PR. Turns out it wasn’t, I had run Anna’s Angels, which was a hillier course, faster in 1:11:44. Still, it was a pretty good time, with an average pace of 7:15. I also wasn’t sure what place I came in but was sure I’d placed in the master’s category or at least in my age group. Once the results were posted I found out I was 3rd masters woman overall which was nice for my first real local race in that category. No medal or trophy to remember the race, only the age group winners got those (I have to admit I would have liked one) but a Wachovia gift card for $50 and an IOS one for $30 was really nice. I got to spend some time with a few RTR folks after the race while waiting for the awards and then headed home to start the rest of the weekend. Not sure what the next race is, I was considering the City of Oaks half but decided after this race that it would need to wait until next year since it was only 2 weeks away and I didn’t feel quite ready for a race of that distance. Guess I better figure out what’s next so I can get motivated to step up the running again! Thanks to Carl for getting me to sign up for this race, I would never have run it if I hadn’t signed up for it so far ahead and then I wouldn’t have placed in my first race in the master’s category!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Boston Marathon, April 19, 2010 - Part 4

Bill Rodgers Running Center

Faneuil Hall

Well deserved glass of wine at the airport

So the race is over, but just thought I'd write a little on the post-race and beyond. I had a great time in Boston, really enjoyed the expo and the seminars put on by RW magazine. The race was tough, especially the last 1o miles. But it was a great experience. I still think I love NY better but now that the pain has subsided I think I'll have fond memories of Boston as well. I did a little sight seeing my walking from the hotel to the expo both days. Now I know my way around Boston a little to know what I'd like to see when I visit next time, likely not for the marathon!

After finishing the race and finding Tom's running group, we waited for a while trying to find Brandi. I won't write too much about that since I am not sure she'd want me to but long story short her stomach was feeling a bit upset after the race so she walked back to the hotel. But since neither she nor I had cell phones I didn't know and waited for her and even checked the medical tent just in case. Daren was great at getting us in there and getting some answers. :-) Once we knew Brandi wasn't there we parted ways figuring she had left already. Tom's running group went to get a cab back to their hotel and I thought about taking a cab to mine but then recalled I had no money! But it was only just under 2 miles and the weather was fine and walking is good after a race so once I got my bearings (had to ask a race volunteer and then a Boston cop) I headed back on foot. I was really tired so was very glad to get back. I called Brandi and found that she was at the hotel safe and sound. I then took a quick shower, called my husband, and headed to find food. I was so hungry and tired that I just went to the pub across the street and sat outside since it was pretty crowded inside. I had a yummy sandwich and a beer and then hobbled back to the hotel. I was able to nap on and off but wasn't up for going out again for dinner so just stayed in.

The next day I felt sore but walking around did help. Brandi and I had breakfast at Au Bon Pain and headed over to Faneuil hall. We visited the Bill Rodgers Running Center and I had some really good NY style thin crust pizza (or maybe in Boston they think it's Boston style). We didn't have time for more sightseeing (duck boats, museums, shopping in other parts of town) but that was ok, I was ready to come home after a great weekend. We headed for the airport and parted ways there since we were on different flights. At the airport I finally got a chance to sit and have a nice glass of wine with lunch. Life is good!
I met several Raleigh area runners again on the way back and it was nice to chat with them while waiting at the airport. I think most everyone had similar things to say about the down hills and that Heartbreak wasn't as bad as they thought but the last 10 miles overall were pretty tough. While most did not PR, I think everyone was glad to have had the experience whether it was their first Boston or not.

I can't say that this will be for sure my last Boston, but it likely will for a while. I don't see a big need now to do it again but perhaps I'll feel different someday. I also can't say it will be my last marathon but again not sure when I'll do another one. For me it's not just the challenge of running marathon but the experience of the race itself. I have only done 3 of them and each one I did for a reason beyond just running. Marine Corp had a great historical setting in DC, lots of monuments to see and I had heard the Marines and crowds were really supportive so it was a great choice for a first marathon. I have to agree, it was. And I was able to visit my friend Kim from college who lived there. For NYC, well that is such a great race and city and near my hometown in NJ so I've always wanted to run it. It has a great history and runs through so many diverse neighborhoods in the 5 boroughs. What could top a start on the Verrazano Narrows bridge! For Bart Yasso, who has done many races, it's the Comrades Marathon that is his life goal, which he's running this year. For me, NYC was like my Comrades. It was the race that I had entered and had to postpone doing in 2000 and then had to withdraw from in 2001 due to work priorities. and was too busy for after that with work, house, kids, relocating, etc. So I always wanted to go back to do it, which I did, and did well. And finally Boston, while I had not really dreamed of it personally for a long time, I had certainly thought more about it over the last year and knew it was a race many of my friends were aiming for. I was proud to be part such a well respected race with such a long history.

So what's next? Well I'd like to focus on speeding up in my shorter races. I won't be doing one every weekend but will probably pick a few that I'd like to do this year. So far I would like to go back and do the Great Raleigh Road Race (GRRR), which is on July 4th, provided it's being held this year. After that, not sure yet. I have thought about when or if I'd do another marathon, even though I had said I was done with that after Boston. For the next one if I do one, I think it would have to be one associated with a trip someplace nice or a close by one that is a fast course so I could aim to PR. Not sure I'd like to run one that is any farther of a flight than a few hours though and if I do, that won't be soon since our vacation plans for this year are already set. I am considering Richmond since it's close by, I've heard it's fast and we have family there. Not sure if this year would be an option for that though so that's likely something for next year. Chicago someday may be something I'd do since it's supposed to also be fast and I've really not been there except for business so didn't see any of the city. But that would require more advanced planning since it fills fast I believe.

So right now I am trying to continue running a few times a week in the mornings before work and then once every week or two in the evening w. RTR if I can, in addition to long runs on Sunday. I discovered in my panic to get miles in during the week that getting up early while a bit painful is actually not so bad and feels much better than not running at all that day. I am recording the miles I run with my Garmin still but I have no specific training plan yet beyond Boston. I guess I better get on that soon if I want to run a faster time at the GRRR though. Right now the next big race is (or actually "was" since I'd already run it by the time I wrote this) the 1 mile fun run at the Second Empire race. I ran the 50 yd dash with Grace and the 1 mile with Owen and it was awesome. That will be the next blog post!

Second Empire 1 Mi Fun Run and 50 Yd Dash, May 2, 2010

Grace and Mommy in the 50 Yard Dash

Grace getting her medal

Owen "coming in first" ahead of Mommy

Owen and Mommy getting our medals

Although my blogs to date have been about races I have run, I have been wanting to write one about this particular race from back in May, even though I didn't "race" it. It was probably one of the best races I have participated in and the reason is because I got to run with Owen and Grace. Owen decided he really wanted to run a race, probably just for the medal but hey, he was excited so why not! But no 50 or 100 yard dash would do this time. Instead he decided he was ready for the 1 mile because he had been running almost enough laps around the track at his school to equal a mile.

We did one practice run at the track before the race and Owen ran the 8 laps to make one mile, so I knew he was ready. He stopped and walked here and there and had a lot of water breaks, but he was smiling at the end so that was good. Grace also came along but she was easily distracted by the "flowers" in the field nearby (aka weeds) so she decided to stop and pick some.

We registered them both for the Second Empire race, Owen for the 1 mile fun run and Grace for the 50 yard dash. Owen and I went to pick up the race packet a few days before so we'd have our t-shirts for the race. His was a bit big but it was a pretty cool tech shirt that matched mine.

On the day of the race, which was in the afternoon in downtown Raleigh, it was pretty warm out. One benefit to the race location is that it's around the corner from The Flying Saucer, a bar with lots of great beer options and good food. So Keith was convinced to come to spectate. :-) We arrived as the first group of 5K runners were finishing and I saw a few running friends finish the race. Everyone looked very hot and sweaty and I was kind of glad to be running the 1 mile instead.

Grace's race was up first. The year before, in the same race, she turned around and cried at the start so I had to carry her the 50 yards to get her medal. I was hoping this year would be better. We didn't know this in advance, but thank goodness her friend and classmate Elizabeth and her mom were running too. This distracted Grace for a bit and she was all smiles at the start. We held hands as we raced to the finish. Grace was very proud of her medal and happy that she and her friend ran the race together. I was happy she ran with no tears and no carrying!

Next it was Owen's turn. Lots of adults, even those without kids, were lined up at the start. But there were also a lot of kids Owen's age as well. He was very excited but a bit nervous. But once the gun went off, he took off at full speed. He continued that much of the race, running at super sonic speed and then walking in between. A good speed workout I guess but not how I'd usually advise running a mile race. He didn't really seem to want mom's advice so we just kept running along according to his training plan.
I think Owen thought it was pretty cool to be running down the middle of a street all alone and not having to hold anyone's hand. He kept trying to pick off other runners and was not extremely modest about doing it. Of course then he'd stop and walk and they'd usually pass us again. It was really great to reach the half way mark and turn around toward the finish. Owen had a few times that he wanted to give up, but he kept plugging along and we'd agree to run to a particular light post or sign and then walk a bit. Soon he could see the giant inflatable arch finish line. Once he could see it there was no stopping him. He picked up his speed and took fewer breaks and of course passed mom to win the race. He clarified, after bragging about coming in first, that he really just meant he came in first in front of me. :-)

Owen was quite proud of his medal and I even got a medal too. It was a really great first race to run post-Boston Marathon. Afterwards we had some beer (well not Owen and Grace) and snacks at The Flying Saucer. And on the way home, Owen fell fast asleep from his big race.

We haven't signed up for any other races yet, but I hope that Owen and Grace will want to keep running. It was great fun and I was very proud of them!

Boston Marathon, April 19, 2010 - Part 3

Map and elevation from my Garmin

Somewhere on the course, looking in pain, maybe on Boyleston?

Crossing the finish line!

Big cheesy grin showing how glad I was to be DONE!

I got up around 5am to get ready for the race, which started at 10am. I am not sure why but I still was really not able to grasp the idea that today I would be running a marathon. Denial! I ate my oatmeal and bananas and rechecked the bag I packed. This was the first time I would be checking a bag so I could change after the race since I heard that you could drop your bag off pretty late and since I didn't have anyone to meet me there to bring my stuff. Here is a tip however when doing this...remember to pack some cash in there because you can't get a cab back to the hotel w. out that. But more on that later...

I met Brandi in the lobby at 6:10am and we walked over to Boston Common to the start (with my handy hand-drawn map since there was no way I was bring my iphone to carry or check). We got there with no problem and I took the first option to use the port a potty there and then we lined up for the bus. I think we probably did some line cutting but to be fair the lines were crazy unorganized from the standpoint that some were short and then there was one long one that seemed to feed into some but not all of the short ones. So there was no way we were getting on that one. We got on a bus pretty quickly and were off to Hopkinton. I am not sure how long it actually took but I heard on the bus that it was going to be 40 minutes or so, so I ended up needing to move seats because I was sitting right on the wheel well and my knees were in my chest. I figured that while it seemed like a good stretch to do, doing it for 40 min was likely not a good idea before a marathon.

I sat next to a woman from NYC who had run something like 20 marathons but she was younger than me so that was impressive. Of course no kids yet. She had run Boston a few times so we talked about NY vs Boston and some other races. Once we got to the start village Brandi and I found a good spot and did the ritual stretching, applying body glide and aspercreme (can't believe with that around bengay is still in use...very old school), eating a second breakfast, and several port a potty stops. Before long, they were calling us to the start, so it wasn't too bad of a wait, about the same as NY. We commented though that since it was at the Hopkinton Middle (?) School and we rode school buses it felt just like a big cross country meet instead of a big marathon. The start village for sure had more of a small town feel rather than a big city race. It was a nice contrast to NY, not better or worse just a nice difference.

We headed to the buses to drop off our bags and then proceeded to the start about 3/4 mi away. And of course I needed to use the port a potty again. Turns out that they had them near the start thank goodness but not actually in the corrals. So the lines were pretty long and they were policing those trying to just go outside of the potties. I got in line and was still freaking out when it was less than 10 min to start and I still was in line. But some other folks who were more relaxed about it said not to worry, yeah right! I got in and out and ditched my throw away clothes since it was fairly warm out (above 50 I would guess). I kept a very light ls shirt and my gloves. I sprinted to the corral only to find a log jam. No one moving in, a huge group standing outside it. Very concerning based on my NYC experience where once the corrals were closed, too bad, you had to wait until the next wave. Boston it turns out is less formal. And I didn't realized until the start that it would take 10 min to get to the start line anyway so I really was ok even standing outside the corral. But being the person I am and since I didn't know that, I did manage to convince people to move in a bit and got in.

The start was much less exciting than NYC I have to say. In NYC you are moved up close enough to hear the cannons signal the start right after Mayor Bloomberg and Mary Wittenberg (NYRRC president) and some professional runners said a few words. As Frank Sinatra belts out New York New York you can't help but feel goose bumps and almost ready to cry that you are there. Boston, not really so much. I didn't really even hear the start but saw the crowd moving far in the distance after a few minutes. Since in Boston you need to qualify the field is pretty fast so I was in corral 11 of the first wave, which only went up to corral 13. After about 10 minutes of mainly walking, I finally reached the start and started to feel excited.

The crowds were there for sure, along the entire course, just like NYC. But as I ran I noticed it was a much more homogenious crowd than NYC. In NY you knew when you entered the different neighborhoods and boroughs. In this race, unless you were really looking for landmarks for each of the 8 towns the race goes through you'd likely miss a few. Not to say the crowd was not great and supportive, because they were. I also noticed fewer runners from over seas, fewer different languages being spoken at the start and fewer crazy costumed runners than in NY. The only one I recall seeing that made my day was a tall lanky bald man with a British accent, who was dressed all in pink complete with fairy wings, tutu, wand and pink running shoes. I don't know where he finished but it was certainly funny to see. A woman wearing a running skirt with a t-shirt that said "You've just been passed by a skirt" was running near him and he sprinted past her for a bit and said "ha, now YOU'VE just been passed by a skirt". Quite entertaining for a mile or so. :-)

The start is always billed as being one long down hill that you will fly through if you don't watch out. I noticed that I was feeling ok and keeping my normal marathon pace (which is only based on one marathon, NY) but I didn't feel I could easily go faster than that or that I was sailing along. I did maintain that pace, of just under 8 minutes, for the first half of the race and really not too much more than 8 min pace until I hit the hills in Newton. I was well aware of the dreaded hills of Newton, which peaked at Heartbreak Hill. I feared them of course but I did not think I'd fare any better on them by running a deliberately slower pace. I kept telling myself and others that I'd go slower in this marathon since I didn't have anything to prove and since I had not been training as much. However, really, who was I kidding? If I didn't feel bad, I wasn't going to go slower on purpose.

I have to say I didn't spend time looking at the sites as much as in NY. I also didn't do too much "high fiving" of kids because I was trying to focus on keeping the pace I was comfortable with. I knew that the race started in Hopkinton and passed through Ashland and then onto Framingham. I did see a few landmarks I recalled reading about such as the Framingham train station. I've never seen a big race where you have to be careful not to trip over train tracks in several places as well as be careful not to run into a few medians that divide the road. They did have some poor teenage volunteers (or more likely they were college students but just looked younger to me!) standing on the medians in bright clothes making lots of noise. Which to me says that often runners do run into the medians. I can see how it could happen and in fact I bet I'd have been one of them if I was running in the middle of the road but I was actually running closer to the right site most of the race.

I also recall passing over a bridge with a nice lake around 9 or 10 miles and I know I read about that but didn't recall the name of the lake, which I have now looked up and it's Lake Cochituate. I recall there was a hill after this that felt pretty long. I think that this part was through Natick but I don't recall a lot else. I knew at that point that the half way point, just on the other site of Wellesley, was coming up. I had heard of the Wellesley "scream tunnel" and had heard that you could hear it from far away. I think I probably did hear it faintly before I saw the girls lined up along the right side of the road. I guess that this part of the race is more exciting to the men running than to me, but still it did mark the nearly half way point, which to me was more exciting. The high pitched screaming was actually a bit distracting and I didn't even see any of the guys kiss any girls but heard later that some I knew did. I did not do any kissing because I was assuming that I was probably not what most of the Wellesley girls were hoping for.

After Wellesley College you enter the town of Wellesley which seemed very nice. It reminded me of some of the neighborhoods in the NY race for some reason. There were again lots of spectators on both sides of the road again but a bit less distracting than the girls were. I still tried to maintain the pace and keep saying my mantra which is "run the mile you're in". That worked pretty well but I was curious about those Newton hills and would soon find out what all the fuss was about. Well actually it's the first down hill that really got me, not Heartbreak as you'd expect. My right calf, which was the one that cramped around 23 miles in the NYC race, was bothering me from early in the race. Which is strange because it really hadn't been an issue in training. Just a race related injury that seems to surface in marathons I guess. Weird. Anyway, after the first big down hill between mile 15 and 16, my quads also joined the club and were really bothering me. So I knew that quads and calf would be in a race to see which one would be the bigger problem later.

I started what I though was the first of 3 hills in Newton and just kept going up and steep down and up and down, some were longer than others but in the end I counted more than 3! When I look at the Garmin, it looks like at least 4 to me between mile 16 and 21 which is Heartbreak Hill. My quads were pretty torn up and the calf wasn't much better but I was expecting Heartbreak Hill to have a big sign or something but all I saw was a woman holding a sign that said what I think was that we had made it over the hill. I read somewhere that not everyone notices that they have even finished Heartbreak because there is no big sign. Well I wouldn't say that I was that oblivious since I knew about where in the race it was and figured this long climbing hill was it. It wasn't too bad considering the reputation but again right after it is the down hill again which was painful. It was my slowest mile of the race, at 8:40, but that's probably to be expected.

It was at this point that I really couldn't stick to thinking about the mile I was running, even though I tried. Again the rest of this part of the race reminded me a bit of parts of the NYC race, in particular as we headed into Brookline. I was not really sightseeing at this point though since the quad and calf issues continued. I found it kind of amusing that my big issues had been my knees for the last few weeks prior to the race and yet despite a bit of soreness early on, they were now fine. In fact everything else was too. I wasn't tired, wasn't having any trouble breathing, etc. The quad and calf were the only thing slowing me down. I stayed around an average of 8:30 pace at this point for the rest of the race. I simply could not go any faster and every mile felt longer. I felt some relief when I got to mile 23 since that was where I had major calf issues in NYC enough to make me stop for a few seconds to rub it. Still I knew it could give out at any time. I also recall some small but painful hills in these last few miles. Nothing like in Newton but ever mole hill seemed a mountain by this point. I had been expecting flat or down hill from Heartbreak onward but that was not really the case. Still somewhere around here I saw someone holding a sign that was pretty motivation that said "find your happpy place". So I tried to do that to get through these last few miles.

Between mile 24 and 25 I also experienced some foot cramping which I just basically "willed away" by saying "nope, that is not happening" and it seemed to work! I knew a bad foot cramp could really be a problem but I just kept going. I know that the big Citgo sign in the distance is a signal that you are nearing the end of the race but since you can see it from pretty far away you aren't quite as close as you think. Still it was a welcome sign. But still bearing right from Beacon onto Commonwealth at the sign feels pretty good. This means that there is just one mile to go and for some reason I always think about this as just 4 laps around the track, hey I can do that right?!

I knew my time would not be under 3:30 at that point but I was ok w that. It would have been nice but I was not really aiming for that time and really knew I couldn't have run faster anyway in those last few miles. I wasn't at Boston to BQ, and I was really pretty happy to be under 3:40, so the possibility of 3:35, which I didn't really start to calculate until about mile 25 or later, was pretty good to me. I knew the famous (well I guess it's famous if there is a t-shirt at the expo that says it) right on Hereford, left on Boyleston was coming soon, though not soon enough for my pained legs. As I turned right on Hereford my foot cramp tried to come back but again I willed it away. But when I turned left onto Boyleston, and I could see the finishline in the distance, a lot farther in the distance than I had hoped, the calf muscle finally hit it's breaking point. Just as in NYC, I was stopped dead in my tracks by it. I am not sure if I was imagining it or not but I thought I heard a few moans or roars from the crowd sort of indicating that I couldn't stop now. I had actually run the entire way, and never stopped or walked once, not even through water stops, so if I was stopping it was bad. I regrouped and looked at the finish line and just started to run despite the major pain and figured I could stop at the finish and sit or whatever I needed to do but once I looked at my watch and it was 3:33 (and I couldn't see the seconds) I was motivated to sprint to get in under 3:35.

As I crossed the finish line I felt a great relief. I checked my watch and determined I had just made it under 3:35 with a time of 3:34:56. I was pretty proud of that. I also saw another Raleigh area man who I had seen at the airport on the way to Boston. He finished right in front of me. I had passed him in the last half mile but then when I had the calf cramp he passed me in the end. We chatted for a few minutes and he said that the City of Oaks marathon in Raleigh was actually about the same or harder than Boston, so that certainly didn't encourage me to really ever want to run that one! Going through the post race chute area, I was definitely wiped out and thought I may need to sit down at one point but never did. I was thirsty and hungry so gladly took the strawberry kiwi protein drink and some cookies but really wished I also had ice for my calf and quads. I know they had it somewhere because I saw people with it but somehow I'd missed it. I got my medal and heat sheet and posed for a post race picture. The volunteer nearby said I looked like I was determined to get that picture because it was the last time I'd run this race and I agreed that she was probably right, at least for now. My stats for the 2010 Boston Marathon were 3:34:56, 8538 overall of 22629 finishers, 1898 of 9524 women finishers, 287 of 1685 women in my age group (40 to 44, first race in the "masters" group).

I wandered to find my bus with my bag of clothes and found Daren who had finished within a few minutes of me. We changed and went to meet the rest of his running group. It was a great race and trip and my only regret, which isn't a biggie, is I wish I'd bought that "Wicked Fast Runnah" shirt at the expo. ;-)

More on the post race and beyond in part 4...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Boston Marathon, April 19, 2010 - Part 2

Amby Burfoot reading from his new book "Going Long"

At the 26.2 mile mark (at the expo)

Cheers bar

Cool but dangerous looking ceiling in the ladies room at Bin 26 on Charles Street

Not so nice side of Boston in Little Italy (Go Yankees!)

Sunday began with sleeping/lounging a bit which I never do. I played around on the iPhone and was really in no hurry to rush out to do anything. I thought about a quick run but then realized that another Runner's World seminar was starting around 10am or so and I had little time to get there so I didn't have time and if I ran there I couldn't bring my purse and copy of RW magazine which I hoped to get signed by some RW staffers. So I rushed to get ready and for some reason decided to walk again (taxi would probably have been a lot faster), this time a better route through Boston Common. I stopped for a quick (which actually took too long) bite and coffee on the way and then ended up needing to literally sprint in my jeans with my purse to the expo center to make the seminar in time.

Bart Yasso was just finishing introducing the RW staffers who were going to discuss "How to Run Your Best Boston" as I arrived. It was a good seminar with each editor sharing their Boston experiences. Mark Remy had the funniest list of "how to run your worst Boston", so it really was a fun session. I decided in the end to stay for the next session with Amby Burfoot and David Willey and another RW writer who each read excerpts from their new book "Going Long". It was also a great session and I am sure I'll buy the book soon but have not yet. I got to talk with David and Amby after the session and they even signed by RW magazine, which was very nice of them. Definitely a great day for a runner thus far!

I headed back to the expo to check out some things I had missed the day before. I am sure I didn't even get to see everything, it was huge. In the end I decided to head back to the hotel and to stop and get my pre-race stuff on the way. First I had lunch (pasta and a splash of wine) at Bin 26 (I think it was 26?) on Charles Street. Then I picked up the race staples (bananas, gatorade, water, etc) and the DeLuca Market across the street. Finally a trip to CVS to get a few unmentionables (um we can say that some antibiotics have a bad effect and leave it at that). Then back to the hotel for a very short nap before dinner.

I met up w. Brandi from RTR to walk over to meet Tom and friends for an early carb loading dinner in Little Italy. On the way we saw a lovely display of Boston Red Sox pride, a Yankees Suck t-shirt so I had to snap a picture even though I am a Yankee fan. Dinner at Lucia's was nice. We met a few others from Tom's running group. We headed back from dinner fairly early to turn in early. On the way Brandi decided she needed some sweat pants and some very persuasive local shop owners convinced her that their fine high quality sweat pants that said "Italia" down one leg were just want she needed, for a bargain at $40. I fear that if she did not purchase them we would have been followed back to the hotel and perhaps fitted with cement running shoes, but that's a story for another blog. ;-)

I think I organized and reorganized my running stuff many times but actually slept better than I usually do the night before a race. In fact I had no race related dreams at all which is probably a first. Just goes to show how much in denial I was about this whole marathon thing actually happening on my lovely vacation to Boston!

Continued in part 3...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Boston Marathon, April 19, 2010 - Part 1

At the finish line on Saturday, Apr 17, in case I didn't make it back there on Monday!

Meeting Bill Rodgers after a 2 hr wait

Bill signed my race bib

Bart Yasso tells stories from
his book "My Life on the Run"

Boston is the "holy grail" of distance running it seems. A short year or so ago I am not really even sure I was aware of how many long distance runners had Boston as their ultimate goal. Not sure why I was not really aware of that but for some reason I don't think I really was. Yet after setting a goal in early 2009 of running a marathon by the end of that year and then joining a running group where other runners had similar goals I guess it was only natural that I'd have to look beyond that goal and set out to achieve the next one, which was not just to finish that next marathon in under 4 hrs but then to actually qualify for Boston.

2009 was a great year for running for me, setting a lot of PRs and winning a lot of age group awards in local races. I never thought it was possible and yet not only had I achieved all those things but also managed to qualify for Boston while running the NYC Marathon. I have to say I was not sure that anything could really ever measure up to actually running and doing well in NYC. The sheer fact of qualifying was really enough and to qualify in NYC, the race I'd really always wanted to run was just the best feeling. So it would really be untrue to say "wow, going to Boston was my big dream" because really NYC was that for me.

But how many chances do you get to run Boston? I'd guess not so many so I was determined to run it this year since I qualified and also registered just in time before it closed in record time (Nov 13th, I registered Nov 2nd, the day after NYC while still in bed in the hotel room!). Shortly after arriving back home I had booked a flight and hotel for Boston as well. Gee, now all I had to do was maintain my training through the coldest winter in a long time!

I have to say I did ok through January despite very cold temps (my hair actually froze under my hat once, as did my gatorade a few times) but when Feb rolled around, work and family commitments took priority and training fell behind. I toyed with the idea of postponing until next year. However in the end I decided that likely next year would not be any better than the present. When the Myrtle Beach Half Marathon was cancelled due to snow of all things, I was somewhat relieved but quickly that turned into concern as I felt still quite under prepared. I ran the Tobacco Road Half in late March and did quite well considering the lack of training. Still I recall finishing that and thinking OMG, how in the world was I going to do that times 2 in less than one month's time?! But it was when I had my last 20 mile run the week after that (I had only done a few this time and no 22 milers) which went terrible that I began to panic. I had not been running enough during the week and it showed. So I started to try to run a few times a week in the mornings before work to try to make up for this.

It was pretty late in the game for that (3 weeks to go) and while I am not sure it really helped much physically, mentally it made me feel a bit better to put some miles in aside from the long run. Yet these were quite slow and painful miles. Literally I could never get below 8:30 pace for 4 to 5 mile runs in the morning, no matter how hard I tried. And my knees would start to hurt at 2 miles and sometimes so badly I needed to stop for a few seconds several times during the run. This was not common for me so I wondered how I was going to pull Boston off. But as time went on and I didn't defer my entry, I was too far committed to do anything else but go and run.

A few weeks prior to Boston, Tom, a friend who was also running the race, emailed some ideas on things to do in Boston and some plans his running group had. As a project manager and natural planner, it was amazing that I didn't have any plans made and up until then was just going to "wing it" but I literally had no time to plan during those last few months. So when the opportunity came to join Tom and his friends for some events I was so glad to do that and not have to plan or think about it. It was so nice for a change for someone else to do that, so thanks to Tom and friends for that!

As Boston got closer, I did begin to feel more excited about it, but perhaps that was just the idea of having a few days away from work! I did kind of block out the whole marathon part of the trip. I was going to miss my family since they were not going, but on the other hand they would likely have been very bored with the things I wanted to do (running expo, seminars, etc). Before I knew it, it was Friday, April 16th and I was packing for my trip to leave early Saturday AM.

I got up really early and headed out, wondering what was in store. Would I have fun, would I finish, would I feel ok after the race, would it be as good as NYC, etc? At the airport it was quite obvious who the Boston Marathon attendees were. I talked briefly to a few folks but mainly just sat and observed who was there. I recognized some faces from local races but didn't really know anyone well enough to start a conversation. On the plane, however, I did chat a bit with a man who was heading there with his family to run his first Boston marathon. He had also run the Fall Second Empire series as I had so we discussed that a bit as well.

The flight went well and I was able to get to the hotel pretty quickly, check in early, and unpack. Although I was tired I got over that fast, same as in NYC, and was excited to head directly to the race expo to get my number, shirt and buy some Boston Marathon stuff. I figured out on my iPhone that the hotel was less than 2 miles from the expo so I decided to walk even though it was chilly and starting to rain. I dressed as warm as I could and headed out. I had been feeling like I was getting a bit sick a few days before leaving so had gotten some antibiotics just in case, since I had some fluid in my ear that could possibly turn into an ear infection. I also discovered Afrin nasal spray, recommended by the urgent care doc, which is amazing but because several MD friends have since warned me not to get hooked on it, I have stayed away from it since Boston. Still, can't believe how well it works! Ok so enough about Afrin. While I wanted to rest and not really run on Saturday I figured a walk would be ok as long as I dressed warm, so off I headed to the expo.

It was, in the end, a good idea to walk since it helped me to get to know the area better. I passed the finish line area and took some pictures (in case I didn't ever make it there on Monday!) and then found my way to the expo where I got my race bib and t-shirt. I headed into the expo which was quite crowded but I knew to expect that after being in NYC. It was literally hard to move through the crowd but I was focused on buying a few key Boston items. I felt, while it was quite bright, I had to have the official Boston jacket for that year. I also found one that was black with a silver logo on it and debated on whether to get both or just one. In the end I convinced myself I only really had one running jacket so could really use a few more, so I got both. Since the race shirt we got as a part of the entry fee was long sleeve, I found a short sleeve one that I liked and got that. And finally I couldn't resist the teddy bears with the Boston t-shirts and in fact got 3 of them (one for each kiddling and one for me!). The line was crazy long but moved incredibly fast. On the line I also got a free poster which was pretty cool. Later I found out that the fine print background of this poster actually had the names of ALL of the entrants of the race on it. Wow, the print was very light and tiny, but I did eventually find my name on there.

After exiting the Adidas store section of the expo I wandered around a while to a variety of booths, only to find I went in a small circle and saw a t-shirt I had forgotten I wanted to buy ever since I saw it in a catalog for the marathon. It was a green cotton tee with the Boston logo and some shamrocks across the front. So I did the dreaded thing of getting BACK into the long line which again went fast.

After this I noticed a line of people that were just hanging out and not moving so I asked what the line was for and the guy at the end said it was to get Bill Rodgers autograph. That sounded great to me so I got in line. Little did I know that while the line seems pretty short, Bill Rodgers is quite a friendly guy and likes to talk a lot to each person. Great if you are that person but perhaps not so much if you are at the end of the line. Still I didn't really have any agenda or plans so I stayed put. After about 2 hours I finally got to the front. It was so great to meet Bill Rodgers and to chat for a bit. He really seemed to want to know about each runner that waited in line for him. We talked about NYC and he told me that NYC was much harder than Boston, which I wanted to believe but was somehow still skeptical. Bill signed my poster and also my race bib and I had a few pics taken with my iPhone. It was pretty cool! As I am writing this I just remembered I also have the business card of a woman from Australia that I met while on the line to see Bill and I have yet to email her so I need to do that tomorrow. She also took some pictures of me with Bill.

By this time I had not had lunch but realized that the Runner's World seminar that Bart Yasso was giving was about to start. Right around this time Tom and his friend Darren also tracked me down so we all headed to Bart's seminar. He talked about his book, My Life on the Run. I had bought the book at the expo in NYC and he had signed it, but even though I had read the book the seminar was still very entertaining. His story about his Badwater experience was hilarious. I was so glad I went. After that I was torn between attending the next session on Chi/barefoot running OR going a few stops on the T to Brookline to the Publick House pub. It was a tough decision but in the end I chose the pub. Darren stayed for the seminar and Tom and I met up with his running group friends Dan and Robert and headed to the pub.

The train ride was good as was the pub. We tried several beers and appetizers and timed it perfectly to get back for dinner at the Atlantic Fish Company. Dinner was also very nice. Robert, Dan and Darren were fun to hang out with. Tom got to meet up with his cousin who was also running the race so that was pretty cool. After dinner I turned in to get some rest with no real firm plans for the next day. That is really unsual but I decided that keeping my options open and not committing to anything may be good for a change!

To be continued in part II...

Tobacco Road Half Marathon, March 21, 2010

I am very late in writing this report on the Tobacco Road Half. My excuse is it's been a very busy 2010 so far! The Tobacco Road Half was actually my first race of 2010 and last race in the "under 40" age group. I was supposed to run another race in 2010 before this one, the Myrtle Beach Half. But as luck would have it, that race was snowed out. I did manage to get out there and run about 8 miles on the morning of the cancelled race and even attended the after party where I picked up my not so well deserved medal. All in all it was still a fun weekend despite the race not happening. I was very impressed by just how many runners didn't let a little thing like the race being cancelled stop them from having fun. There was a great sense of camaraderie out there that morning, I only wish I had run the entire half marathon course because I felt like a slacker when I heard that some ran the entire full marathon course anyway.

Ok, but back to the Tobacco Road Half....

I had been training for that race by running part of the course a few times. Still I was nervous since I hadn't been putting in the miles overall and also hadn't run a race since Dec 2009. But I was excited to run a new local race like this one, especially with so many other RTR and other running friends also doing it. The kids and Keith were away for that weekend. Though the race wasn't very far away, I got up extra early so I could carpool from Tracy's house near Thomas Brooks Park, where the race starts and ends. We packed two cars full with five people in each (a tight fit in the Jeep Wrangler for sure!) and made our way to the park. It was quite crowded and the port a potty lines were very long, so long in fact that I knew I'd never make it to the front in time. So I used what little woods and remaining cover of early AM darkness to my advantage and then ran over to the starting line to get a good spot.

I decided to start near the front by the 1:40 pace group. That was the fastest one for the half and while I figured I wouldn't run with them, since I always prefer to do my own thing, I figured it would be a good place to line up. Alexis started where I did but everyone else must have lined up farther back. The mayor of Cary announced the race start and we were off running pretty quickly. I started at a pretty fast but comfortable pace. About 1 mile or so in, a crazy guy who lives on the the road the race runs along, who clearly had somewhere important to be, sped out of his driveway directly in front of the pack of runners just in front of me. He's lucky he didn't hit anyone and he didn't get a warm reception for pulling that crazy stunt. But it certainly got the adrenaline going early on!

This first leg of the race is just under 3 miles and consists of rolling hills until you get to the Tobacco Trail. This is where the half and full marathons split and the half goes right and full goes left. I was pleasantly surprised to be cheered on by a friend from RTR, Randy, at this point. It was so nice to see some familiar faces at this race. You can't get that when you are far from home. I started to feel tired and a bit intimidated the minute we hit the trail. It's just strange to race there for me. I could only see a few runners ahead of me and heard the crunching of the fine gravel/dirt trail with every step. Very different than a road race for sure.

By mile 6 or so, I ended up running next to an older gentleman who was keeping the pace pretty well. He seemed to be really enjoying the day and chatting with folks here and there. After getting to about mile 7, the front runners started to head towards us and they were staying to the right instead of following the signs that said to stay left. It was at that point that I knew the older gentleman running near me was actually one of the race founders since he began immediately to redirect the runners and volunteers (sometimes very passionately!). He even ran back to ensure things were all fixed. I commended him later on his leadership skills as I passed him going the other direction after I hit the turnaround at mile 8. Even with doubling back I later found out he didn't finish very far behind me! Also later found out he'd run Boston several times.

I was very happy to hit mile 8 and turn around but quickly realized that as cool as it was to know a lot of people in the race it was also a bit distracting to be running in the opposite direction of them and saying hi while you are starting to get tired. By mile 9 I had had enough of the trail part of the course and was looking forward to a change in scenery. Plus by that time the crowd heading North on the trail was very large and there was too little space for those now heading South. I felt I was nearly being run off the road a few times. I kept saying to myself that all would improve at mile 10 when we'd make the left (thus the need to keep left and not right) onto the road again. It was nice to see some RTR friends manning the aid stations along the way. Dan was at mile 6 and 10 and Brandy, Kristine and Heiko were at the "unofficial" aid station which I did not partake of since I was struggling enough without adding beer to the mix!

I was very relieved to finally make that left turn back onto the road. But while the change in scenery was good, the uphill climb was not so good. I was pretty tired at point after maintaining about a 7:15 pace up until then. I was running out of steam and knew the course enough to know the 3 miles that remained were going to be challenging. Just as I started my climb, an older but extremely fit woman who had been running near me on and off during the race steadily moved ahead of me. I knew I was slowing down and would just not be able to stay with her.

By mile 11 I was so ready to be done, but unfortunately had 2.1 miles to go! I knew that Mike, another RTR friend, would be at the mile 12 aid station and it felt like that was so far away. I just kept plugging along knowing that my pace had slowed a lot in those last miles. As I passed mile 12 however I felt a bit more energized at the though of having only one more to go. The best feeling was rounding the left turn onto Green Hope School Road. Somewhere at or before that a guy said to me that I'd be in the top 25 women if I could pick off 2 more. Unfortunately I knew I did not have that in me and at that point was just trying to finish for time. I knew it would not be a PR but it wasn't bad at all. Of course the second half was slower than the first so no negative splits that day. But I did give it a good sprint at the end and finished 27th overall of 1261 women in a time of 1:37:15. I was 7th of 294 women in my age group. This was the second best half marathon ever for me.

I met up with my group at then end and we went back to Tracy's place for breakfast and to clean up. It was a great race and a fun day. Several RTR friends also completed the full marathon that day. I am not sure I'd be able to do that one, the half took enough out of me. Still I was very pleased with my time. It was a good way to end my last race before entering the "masters" group.

Next stop...Boston! I found it hard to believe at the time that it was only a short month away.