I am ignoring advice of Daughter # 1. Yesterday she paused her typical late-for-the-bus frenzy long enough to declare: “When you blog about New Bedford, puh-leeez remember: WE DON’T CARE ABOUT RUNNING, MOM.” Hands on her denim-clad teenaged hips, she batted her sparkly eyelids for effect. “We want the LOVE STORY!”
Later in the day she’d reinforce this message via text: “Remember: PLAY TO READER INTRESTS (sic)! Did you learn nothing in journalism school??”
My dear daughter thinks you care not how goes my fundraising and running; inquiring minds want the next installment of that which started on an icy hill after the BP-16 and heated up in the cauldron of Salem’s Black Cat 20-Miler.
But I know you better. You crave race details, not racy ones. So here they are 🙂
This weekend I headed off to the whaling city of New Bedford Mass, home of the New Bedford Half Marathon (a nod to Emma: I was not alone). The 13.1-mile race is this coastal city’s collective response to both the fast-approaching Boston Marathon and Saint Patrick’s Day. Like Reese’s, these are two great tastes that taste great together. The race is as much a part of the city as the cobblestone roads I was hoping, during my prerace warm-up, that the race route would not take us down (it didn’t).
New Bedford had been on my calendar for quite awhile, ever since my coach told me to get more racing experience before Marathon Monday. When I registered, I thought this would be a great way to kill two birds with one stone: get race experience while ensuring I’d have a lot of company on a needed long run. Little did I know that by this time in the marathon training progression a). 13.1 miles would no longer qualify as a “long run” and b). my coach would up the ante and tell me to run it not at my Long Slow Distance pace (something in the 10-11 minute mile range) but at this new-to-me concept of Race Pace, which, he declared, would be 8:30 for me. Gulp.
By all metrics New Bedford would be the biggest race on my pre-Boston calendar. It is a formidable event, attracting an international field of 2500 or so accomplished runners. Case in point: Kim Smith was there, an Olympian from New Zealand who finished in the top ten in the 10,000 meters at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. (She would place first amongst us girls in New Bedford, in case you’re wondering.)
As we stretched pre-race I felt great. I had on my newly acquired Adidas 115th Boston Marathon 2011 race shirt (very snazzy—a splurge at my Marathon Sports charity team discount day) and I had some really great workout experiences in my back pocket (I mean this figuratively not literally). The gentleman I happened to be stretching with gave me a kiss on the cheek and told me he thought I was going to surprise myself.
Everyone stressed a little about clothing. Running tights or shorts? Hats and gloves? It wasn’t until we (kiss-on-cheek gentleman and I) did a lap around the block to warm up that I decided I could go without the Miles for Miracles windbreaker I had brought. The temperature was rising as we approached the 11:00 start. Plus, goofy as it sounds, the Boston Marathon logo made me feel faster so I didn’t want to cover it up.
The race is so big that they have what’s called pace corrals—distinct places for runners who are aiming for everything from sub-seven minute miles to walking pace. The faster you intend to run, the closer to the start line you stand, to separate Sunday drivers from Maseratis. Gentleman Friend and I made our way towards the 7:30 to 8 minute corrals—a compromise for both. Were we alone he would have moved up to the 7s while I would have migrated back to the 8:30s but we stayed somewhere in the middle so we could be together for pre-race announcements, the moment of silence for the victims of the Japan earthquake and the singing of the usual patriotic songs by the usual beautiful young ladies (in this case they were Miss New Bedfords or some such). And then we were off.
The first mile was phenomenal—we mostly rolled downhill, through thick cheering crowds. It was a blast; I was smiling and wondering what Boston would be like. I knew I was travelling at a good clip, yet, just like at the BP-16, scores of runners were passing me. That was OK—I had started in a zippier-than-me corral; it was to be expected that people would pass en masse, I told myself. My Garmin’s auto lap buzzed to indicate I’d finished the first mile:
Mile 1: 7:40
It’s a newbie mistake, going out too fast is. You have all this energy and you’re excited so you go fast and then the wheels fall off later. I slowed myself down on purpose. Then the course started delivering some hills, which slowed me down even further.
Then out of the blue and for no apparent reason, my mood changed like someone had thrown a switch. I was no longer stoked. I was no longer ready. I remembered the Evil Eighteen and how injury forced me to seriously curtail two key runs. Suddenly, I sucked.
Mile 2: 8:45
Once I saw that 8:45, the Marathon logo on my chest couldn’t even help. My heart rate hastened. My breathing got haggard. I didn’t deserve to run here.
Mile 3: 8:46
Mile 4: 8:42
Ack! To non-running friends, 8:45, 8:46, 8:42—these all might sound pretty darn close to 8:30. Trust me: they are not. There was a huge chasm between my goal pace and my actual pace. People who clearly enjoy ice cream sundaes on a much more regular basis than I were now passing me.
Then it hit me: girl, you can go with this negative flow or you can GO. The choice is yours. Focus on those two failed 18 milers or focus on, say, the three-mile tempo run that you executed so perfectly that it moved you to tears (much to the discomfort of the Department of Public Works crew working on Boundary Street that day).
You can say you belong here or you can say you don’t. Either way you will be right.
OK. I belong. I pull out all that good stuff I had tucked away in my back pocket (again, figuratively, not literally). I settle in, find my groove, let the runner within come out to play:
Mile 5: 8:20
Mile 6: 8:06
Mile 7: 8:16
We are now along the water’s edge. I love the ocean. As we pass Dolphin Road I decide I am a dolphin. (I know I am weird–hey, it works for me.) There’s a hill coming up at 9, I remind myself. I know this from the nice lady who helped me yesterday at Marathon Sports, who is somewhere in this pack. I will be OK up that hill. I will pretend it’s Thomas Drive in Marlborough. I am just doing hill repeats, making the neighbors think I am wacky.
Mile 8: 8:23
I will kill this hill.
Mile 9: 8:19
Operation Kill Hill? Check! 🙂
Mile 10: 8:16
There is nervous chatter around me about another hill to come–a big one between mile 12 and 13. I don’t talk when I run, so I just listen. These runners sound tired. I suspect that if I pass them now I’ll never see them again.
Mile 11: 8:00 🙂
There’s a crazy man yelling at the top of his lungs about the inferiority of females. Kid you not. He’s mean. He’s scary. I can’t figure out if he’s a runner or a spectator. He tells us women–I feel like he must be looking right at me though I can’t see him–that we’re no good, we’re never in the top ten percent. I want to yell that he should visit a freaking birthing center some day, see how many men are in the top ten percent there. He heckles a woman in front of me who has begun walking up the sizable hill we are on—only women walk the hill he spits. I am alternately ticked and terrified. Where are the police? Why isn’t someone pulling him off the course? I both want to prove him wrong wrong wrong and get away from him at the same time. Despite the steep incline I sprint.
Mile 12: 7:42!
Thank goodness for flat ground. Crazy man long gone. Breathe. Shake it out.
Mile 13: 8:28
We turn a corner. The clock at the final mile marker shows if I really boogie I could come in under 1:50. Maybe. We runners do like our even numbers. I dig deep.
Kick: 6:59 with a moment or two at 5: 07
And just like that it is done. I get a pretty medal. I find my handsome male companion. I text my awesome coach. I giddily share my results. I can’t contain my shock and awe–my average is definitely better than the 8:30 he challenged me to. The Garmin says I hit 8:17. My coach’s response is smooth as glass. Nice race, he texts back, now go find ice and get it on your foot. If I want gasps and hoots and accolades I’ll have to look elsewhere—so I text my family, bask with them via Blackberry.
When my coach and I meet the next day to review the graphs he created from my Garmin race data file (which he called “complete artwork” btw) he shrugs his shoulders and flatly explains his non-emotional response: “I did my job. You did yours. Why would I be surprised that you did well?” I thought that response rocked.
So how did my handsome companion fare you ask? First you need to understand he had two factors working against him: 1) just 24 hours prior to the half marathon, he ran a zippy three miles at 6:22 pace at the Team Challenge Multisport World at MIT and 2) as we headed to the start line, he discovered his Garmin was dead. I guess you could say he started the race with both of his batteries drained. Despite this double challenge, he ran lightning-fast 7:12s and an overall 1:34:20—a new personal record for him. All I can say is O-M-G!
I guess I speared self-doubt in that whaling community–not forever, but at least for now. I had a good race. He had a good race. We had a good race. And then we had a beer and headed home. Yes we did.
Cheers for now,