Thursday, October 23, 2014

A very belated Harwich Half Report, or, how to race like an idiot

Back at the beginning of October, I ran the Harwich Cranberry Harvest Half Marathon down the Cape in Harwich, MA. I initially picked this race because my mom was in town for the weekend, and since she couldn't watch me in my dance show as planned, she could at least see me run (something she, for some reason, totally enjoys). I figured the Cape would be a fun destination since she was kind of hoping to get there, what the heck! Let's drive almost 2 hours to do a random half! I was also coming off of what nearly turned into a 2 week hiatus from running due to Heartbeat...between hell weekend, first show, soreness from first show, and second show, I got minimal running in for about 10 days, so I figured a half would be a good "workout" and a good way to get some vague sense of where I was in my fitness. Um. Let's hope that this race doesn't represent where I am in my fitness, because if it does? Bad news bears.

I potentially have never prepared less for/done a better job of pretending I WASN'T racing the next day than I did the Saturday before this race. I started off the day with a 2 hour hike in Middlesex Fells, which was gorgeous, but also extremely hilly. Whatever! We love hills! It's just hiking! I then proceeded to head to the Baseball Tavern to watch the Badgers game with Andrew and my mom, where we proceeded to drink several beers and eat various bar-type foods. Ideal preparation, yes? The day concluded with us eating at a sushi restaurant, where I ate raw eel and drank a martini. Let's be real for a second here. This obviously was not an "A" race, but could I really have sabotaged myself any more? I love that I'm no longer intensely superstitious about being a perfect human being the day before races -hell, having (one) beer is now part of my pre-race tradition!  Buuuut this was a little intense.

I headed down to the Cape with my mom on Sunday morning, and it was a PERFECT fall day. Absolutely gorgeous, not a cloud in the sky, light breeze, temps in the upper 50s. I of course managed to forget my breakfast at home so we had to stop at Dunkin Donuts for a bagel and an iced coffee. The race itself was a smedium (small/medium haha) affair with 250 or so runners in a 7.3 mile race and about 600 in the half. Packet pickup was pretty frills, and we received a lovely cotton t-shirt with a logo that I can't decide if it's hideous or adorable. We had gotten there relatively early so I had time to locate a porta-potty and hang out with my mom for a bit before the race. I had EXTREME difficulty deciding what shoes to wear for this race for some reason. I haven't found a pair of Mizunos that I love for racing yet but I was thinking I wanted to wear flats of some sort (because I thought I was going to run fast...ohhhh hahaha silly Audrey). I eventually chose my Saucony Fasttwiches, definitely flats, which I wore for a 10 miler the week before so assumed they would hold up OK.

Surveying the situation                                               Being paparazzi'd by my mom while "stretching"

I warmed up a little bit on the high school track and then headed to the starting area, where I felt like I was standing FOREVER. Finally they had us get into the starting area with a vaguely seeded system - signs posted for 6:00, 7:00, 8:00, the usual. I hung out near the front of the 7:00 sign group, and it was pretty empty. There were maybe 2 women lined up ahead of me with a couple right around the same area. Well, this is where the stupid thought started to go through my mind. "Hey, there aren't even that many people lining up in the 7:00 area. You knew this race was kind of small. Could you win something today? Maybe? Huh?" Damn it, brain. I'm never listening to you again.

The national anthem played and shortly after we were off. And I immediately became WORLD'S DUMBEST RUNNER. Off the line I was maybe 4th woman, and I decided I wanted it to stay that way. I latched on to a woman in her 40s or 50s and we started running what (I perceived for the moment) as a comfortably hard pace. Said woman went on to run a 1:30. My PR is 1:34. I think we can all see where this is going. I either missed the 1 mile marker or there was none, but I heard someone's Garmin trill and I looked at my 1 mile split. 6:47. Oh sweet lord. For some reason I decided to ignore that useful information that I had just been provided and kept running with the master's woman. I came through the 2 mile split in under 14:00 and was (for obvious reasons) already feeling it. Houston, we have a problem...this runner is an idiot!  I feel like I should also mention that the course, until maybe the last 1.5 miles, was entirely rolling hills. Up, down. Up, down, up. Up down. I have run very, very few rolling hills in my training recently. This was...unpleasant.

Once I started to realize that I had gone out way, WAY too hard, things started to go downhill in a big way. I consciously tried to slow my pace but I also quickly realized I didn't have a choice, because my legs were already going to crap. I got passed so. many. times. between miles 3 and 5. It was unfortunate but I couldn't even bring myself to care. I was not enjoying my Sunday. Up, down. Up, up, up, down. I hate these hills so. effing much. At one point I got "Shake It Off" stuck in my head and I was like, yeah, you're gonna be fine, just shake the hill off! That was an unsuccessful mind game. It's really been awhile since I felt AWFUL in like mile 4 of a long race, but that was happening, and I had to find a way to suck it up and just get through it. I eventually settled on repeating in my brain every time I hit a hill "This is just making you SUCH A STRONGER RUNNER...think of how much mental fortitude you are building right now...seriously WHAT A GREAT WORKOUT THIS IS YOU ARE GOING TO BE SO MUCH STRONGER AFTER THIS". And having a rationale for the unpleasantness strangely helped a little bit. I actually held on to around 7:25-7:30 pace through about 7 miles, which surprised me a little given how I felt. For a second I thought, OK, well I could run a 1:38 and be totally OK with that! Annnnd then we hit mile 8.

I should mention that along with the rolling hill death there was a wind situation going on. It wasn't noticeable all of the time, but right after mile 8 we made this turn along the water and all of a sudden there was just this ridiculous wind gusting in my face. There happened to be a water stop right there as well, which I attempted to use, but I got distracted as the water essentially just blew in my face and at the same time, my hat (which is so ratty and gross but for some reason is my favorite running hat) blew off of my head. I was SO unhappy. Of course I wasn't going to go back for the stupid hat, but I couldn't help being pissed off that I had lost my favorite hat over this dumb race I was running. The next mile I became very grouchy. The pack had thinned by this point and so I was basically running by myself, and it was a lonely, lonely time. Some people screamed at me out of a car which got me to crack a smile, but other than that I was basically just thinking, ugh, when will this end. The only saving grace was that things flattened out a little bit at this part of the course and we got some shade, which was pleasant. But the BEST news was when I suddenly heard someone coming up behind me..."Excuse me, is this yours?" MY HAT!!! A girl running behind me had caught it, and of course she was now going to pass me, and beat me, but I honestly could not have cared less because I had my hat back.

I kept running. The pack thinned out even MORE. I felt like I was just chilling out for an extremely unpleasant long run by myself. I felt like poop. I knew I was slowing down and I couldn't bring myself to care. All I could think about was getting through the next few miles so I could just be DONE with this stupid race and eat some food and not think about running for the rest of the day. At mile 11, suddenly a giant hill appeared out of nowhere. I tried running up it. It was one of the most pathetic things I've ever done. I ended up walking for about 30 seconds because I just couldn't even do it anymore. I finally shut down my negative stupid-brain and was like, shut up, you're almost there, just get it done. Around mile 12, I suddenly remembered that I had a Gu in my pocket. How does one even manage that?! Remember how I was just a total idiot in this race? Something tells me that my small breakfast + no fuel = unpleasant last several miles of race. Herp, derp. I decided better late than never and I took it anyway, but it was ridiculous.

The last mile and a half or so of the race were on this Cape rail trail which was actually really delightful - the leaves were gorgeous and it was flatter than the rest of the course had been. I was still absolutely not enjoying my day but at least it was about to be over shortly.
I look so relaxed here. Not entirely sure how I managed that one. Bad race =good photos?

The distance between mile 12 and 13 seemed excessively long as we turned off the rail trail and I thought we were going to immediately hit the finish line. Nope, still need to run around a parking lot thing before you can be done. This was the point where I finally saw my mom cheering (adorably, as always). I think I made a face at her but at least now I knew I was almost done. The finishing straight, as always, seemed to last years, and I suddenly became aware of breathing behind me and people saying something to the effect of "he's right behind you!". Well. After all of the shit that had happened in this race I REFUSED to get outkicked at the finish line. I have no idea where I found any strength to do anything, but I literally outleaned this dude, sprinter style. We shook hands afterward. Sadly by chip time he actually beat me by 15 seconds...but gun time for life, beyotches.
 Epic sprint to the finish. At least my calves look awesome?

FINALLY it was over. My final time was a 1:42:12 which just...ugh. So far off of my PR and by far the slowest half I've run since moving to Boston. I guess now I know why they say New Bedford is a fast course...maybe I need to adventure into other halves to find out where I really stand. I grabbed several beverages (Gatorade, Honest Tea, water) from a tub and headed over to get some food. Unfortunately, nothing sounded appetizing in the slightest. Eventually I thought I might want a hot dog, but at that point there were none readily available, and by that point I was just over it. So my mom and I left without much further ado. I did meet an ADORABLE bulldog puppy while sitting on the ground which more than made up for how crappy I felt. 

"That was exactly zero fun"

I actually had to go to a dance rehearsal afterward, but not before we stopped at A&W for some hot dogs, root beer and CHEESE CURDS. If anything makes life better, it's cheese curds.

So, to summarize, I think we have a few morals to this story:
1. Don't be an idiot.
2. Remember your damned Gu
3. Don't be an idiot
4. Run more hills 

Harwich Half
78/610 overall, 9/107 F 20-29