Saturday, April 27, 2013

New Bedford Half Marathon (belated) Race Report

aka, the least deserved massive PR I have ever run.  I don't mean this as a humblebrag - I legitimately have NO IDEA how I ran the race I ran at New Bedford. Yes - my half PR has always been soft compared to my marathon and 5K times, and yes, it's been 3 years since I've run one - but let's be honest here...those have been 3 years of not the best training and almost no racing. Looking back on my training reveals that in the 2 months leading up to the race, I only ran over 30 miles in a week twice, and I did exactly 2 runs over 10 miles. So what changed? The only thing I can think of is: DANCE. Lots and lots and lots of dance have apparently turned me into a way better runner. So...anyway...race report!

Race day arrived and it was FREEZING. The last time I ran this race, in 2010, the weather was in the 50s or 60s - pretty legit for the middle of March. When I woke up on Sunday my phone told me that it was 28 freaking degrees, no. I spent pretty much the entire morning trying to figure out what I was going to wear for the race. Capris? Undershirt? Armwarmers? High socks? After a very slow 10 minute warmup and peeing behind a random bush, I eventually decided on armwarmers and knee socks (knee socks which I have never worn to run in before; this will be relevant later). In retrospect I looked ridiculous, but whatever. I made it back to the car with a few of my teammates and it. was. COLD. And WINDY as all get out.

Semi-naked. Why are we doing this again??

The sheer number of people at the start made things a little bit better, but still, I was raring to get running so I could stop freezing to death. When the horn sounded, Brianna, Joy, and I took off together, but no sooner had we gotten out of the starting gate than I see Brianna flying through the air and landing with a thud on the ground next to me. What can you do in that situation? I looked back and she seemed OK, so I continued on alone (I later came to find out that she actually passed me at some point in the race and beat me by like 2 minutes. TROOPER!). Mile 1 - 6:54. Whoa, girl. I had been prepared for the first mile to be something ridiculous like that, though, so I focused on just relaxing and getting into a groove. There was something in my eye that was driving me absolutely insane, and when I went through the second mile in 7:14 I started to get concerned, because I didn't feel calm, or relaxed. I felt like crap at this pace, and the negative thoughts started swirling: oh, you KNEW this was going to be a disaster; this is what you get when you didn't train for the damn race! Idiot. Try and relax. Look at all of these people passing you. UGH, mile 2, and I already hate everything, this is awful. Not my finest hour mentally. Things didn't improve as we headed over the 3 increasingly large hills that led to THE hill just after mile 3. On the third buildup hill, I remember thinking that maybe this was the big hill...and then remembering for some unknown reason that there was a fence on the left side of the big hill...and this hill had no fence in sight. Between the surprise rollers and the fact that mile 3 came in at 7:24, a mental breakdown was imminent. The wind was in my face, my body felt tense, I just couldn't find a rhythm. Mentally, I was freaking out. 

And then, straight ahead, was THE hill. At least half a mile of climbing up into the distance. I tried to reel in my unraveling mind with the only thing I could think of to hold on to: RELAX. I tried to relax. I tried to tell myself that the stream of people passing me were going out too fast. I tried to reassure myself that the race wasn't going to be won here, that I wasn't going to lose a PR because of a slower mile split on this hill, but I could if I let my mental game implode at mile 4. I finally came through the mile mark in 7:29 - I expected that split to be slow, but it was still a blow to my confidence. Still, I thought, if I just keep THAT pace for the rest of the race, I can still get a PR. And I also reminded myself that I was heading into the most glorious section of the course, a gentle downhill section stretching about 4 miles which on this day had the added bonus of a tailwind. 

I told myself: CRUISE. The pack had started to spread out by this point, and I finally started passing some people, although others were passing me. But I was much calmer about that now - I suddenly felt light and free, and every time someone passed me who looked to be working a whole lot harder, I told myself that they would wind up coming back to me. In many cases, that turned out to be true. Mile 5 was a 7:08 - clearly quite the turnaround! Suddenly I felt completely relaxed and fabulous at this pace, and a tiny ray of hope started to peek through. Maybe this would be OK? Around this time, my brain also decided that it would be a good idea to start playing "Larger Than Life" by the Backstreet Boys on loop...I can't even think of the last time I listened to that song, so this was pretty random. 

For the next few miles, I just locked in and let myself roll. I knew that at some point we were going to turn into the wind, so I was trying to make sure I wasn't trashing my legs before that happened. You know that they always say "trust your training", but in this race, there wasn't much there to trust. I had to hope that my legs were strong enough not to completely crash on me somewhere in this, the longest distance I had run in almost a year. Around mile 7 or 8, I started to realize that the side of my left foot sort of felt like it Slash burning. I had a brief thought of "oh, shit, I shouldn't have worn these ridiculous socks, and I'm probably getting a blister there right now", but sort of put it out of my head until later.

We made the turn off of the downhill, heading along the water. The wind hadn't hit at it's hardest just yet, but there was definitely a change from 'ahh, gliding downhill' to 'OK, now you're going to have to work a little bit'. Still, coming through the 8 mile mark, I was still feeling great. If the wheels were going to come off it was going to happen soon, but I tried to keep myself in the moment and not worry about what was ahead. There was a little bit of an uphill at about 8.5, and I powered up it past 2 other women, duking it out on the hill. One again, I felt a little surge of excitement that I was RACING this thing - not just surviving, but actively seeking out other runners to pass. And it felt good.

Just after making the pass. Let's just take a minute to talk about how inappropriately dressed I am for a sub-40 degree day. To be fair...I wasn't cold after the first 2 miles of the race.

And then, it didn't feel good, because we made the turn into the wind, and HOLY SHIT. Not only was it freezing cold, but it was also straight into my face, and brutal. Again, I tried to calm myself down and get myself to relax. "Everyone else is running into this same wind," I told myself, "so shut up and get it done". We were at 10 miles now, and it was now or never. I still hadn't fallen much off the 7:08-7:10 pace, and with each passing split I became more shocked and giddy that somehow I was going to run a giant PR off of 25 miles a week. The pack was too spread out to really draft off of anyone, but I tried to tuck in as best I could behind the line of runners, hoping that maybe even a little bit of the wind would be blocked. After 2 brutal miles along the beach, during which I managed to only slow down into the 7-teens, we finally turned back into the city. 2 miles to go. By now, my legs were starting to ask what the hell was happening, and why we were still running. Mile 11-12 seemed to take an ETERNITY. I had somehow managed to isolate myself between 2 packs of people, and so it felt like I was running completely alone. And then, just after the 12 mile marker - THE hill.
My thoughts at this moment in time: FUUUUUUUUUUUU-you can fill in the rest

I kind of wanted to throw myself down in the road. AND I was utterly disappointed to find that there were no bagpipes at the crest of the hill this year. Having made it to the top, I thought that the worst was over...but the half mile that led to the finish seriously seemed to go on for an eternity. In my remembrance of the course, you basically ran up the hill, turned a corner, and it was downhill to the finish. But alas, in real life, there was about half a mile stretch of flat/slightly uphill road before that glorious downhill turn. I continued cursing the course, running in general, and the now-throbbing blister on my foot (as it turns out, it was a blood blister the size of like, 2 quarters) until I finally hit that downhill. And then...I'm pretty sure I flew past 10 people as I kicked into gear, knowing that I was FINALLY almost there. 1:35:03. 

I definitely was happy when I crossed that line. Mostly happy to be done, happy I hadn't completely failed, and sort of in disbelief that I had just PR'd by 3 1/2 minutes. I mean, what? I knew that my half PR was sort of soft, but I couldn't have guessed that it was THAT far below what I was capable of, especially given my less-than-stellar training over the months (and honestly, years) leading up to this race. And of course, I wasn't COMPLETELY happy because I missed breaking 1:35 by 3 seconds. GAH.  After the race, I quickly realized how incredibly cold it actually was, so I found my teammates and we headed back to the car to grab our gear. On our way, I ran into Kelly! My first running buddy in Boston, my mentor who got me into marathons - and I haven't seen her in years! I attempted to cool down with Joy, Anna, and Brianna, but after about half a mile of hobble jog/walking, I gave up and went to catch up with Kelly instead. We grabbed seafood chowder and chatting - so nice to see her again after so long! 

After the race we headed to a local bar ("Phlanges?" was what we heard over the phone, actual name of the bar: Sliante) was St. Patrick's Day, after all! And so I enjoyed a porter and basked in that PR glow.
Post race celebrations: basically the only reason we run. PS, those are not our medals from the race, but random beads that we were given at the bar. 

It was a great day, overall. But the most ridiculous part of the day was yet to come...because as soon as I got back to Boston, I'll give you one guess as to where I was headed. I'll give you a hint: it involved dancing for 2 hours straight. That's right, we had our first full runthrough with the band for Heartbeat! And really, what better way to cap off a half marathon PR than dancing?

New Bedford Half Marathon - 3/17/13
New Bedford, MA
547/3135 overall
54/384 F20-29

Friday, April 26, 2013


[As with everything that I do on this blog these days, this comes way after the fact - I contemplated not writing anything, but it felt odd to just move on to the next race report without mentioning Boston in some way]

I wore my 2010 Boston jacket to work on Marathon Monday because I was thinking about everyone who was running the race. And truth be told, as I watched the elite races unfold and excitedly checked my phone for updates on all of my GBTC teammates between patients, watching as several friends ran incredible races, I was a little jealous that I wasn't racing. I texted my friend Joy - "Uh oh, I think I might want to do another marathon!" I was caught up in the excitement, even though I wasn't actually there for the first time in 4 years. I couldn't have guessed that all of that excitement would be transformed into sadness and anger by the end of the day, and that the jacket that I had put on that morning in solidarity with the marathoners would take on a whole new meaning.

There's so much I could have written over the past couple of weeks, and saying it now would really only be repeating things that have already been said. My personal favorite piece is this one: But I can tell you that when I walked into the waiting room to get my next patient and saw those headlines, those images on CNN, I felt like I had been absolutely punched in the gut. Many people have spoken about how runners, as a community, have really felt the effects of these events very personally, as we are such a tight knit community and the marathon is such a joyous celebration of that. I was right on board with those sentiments, but there was another reason that I think I was hit harder by all of this than I have been by any other atrocity that has taken place in my lifetime. And that's because in that moment, I realized that Boston is my home. You never imagine that something so horrifying could happen somewhere that you live - in a race you've run, where friends have stood to cheer for you, on a street you walk down every week to get to track practice. And seeing those familiar places turned into a warzone was horrifying. My heart ached for the families, the victims, the runners who didn't get to finish and those who saw their achievements overshadowed by people who seem to believe that by causing chaos that they will prove some kind of point. And as many have said, Boston has clearly shown that we are stronger than that.

I had planned a trip back to visit Andrew last weekend long before these events occurred, and the shock of waking up to head to the airport Friday morning and seeing BU Alert texts about "manhunt", "shootings", and "lockdown" was beyond anything I've ever experienced before. On my flight, every TV was tuned to the news. I was lucky enough to catch a cab and was able to get to my apartment - the streets were a ghost town, even though it was the first truly beautiful spring day of the year. I don't think I have ever been happier to see Andrew in my life as when I walked through that door. It felt like a movie, watching the drama unfold as we "sheltered in place". And then, when it was all over, the elation, pride, and joy that I felt for the city that I've come to know as home was beyond compare.

I posted to facebook that night that "in the end, most people are AMAZING." And through all of this, the tragedy, the sorrow, the utter insanity of the entire thing - the beautiful, the good, and the strong are what have risen above. And I'm absolutely honored to be able to live, to run, and to love in a city filled with so much strength and love. I'm proud to call Boston my home.
Johnny Kelly statue in the Newton Hills, 4/21/13