I’m so happy to be racing regularly again. It keeps me on a tighter training schedule and forces me to incorporate speed training I should probably be doing during the week. Best of all, the races are a chance to catch up with friends and have some fun. In my 20’s I used to go out to the bars on Friday/ Saturday nights to hang out with my friends, now I get up early on Sundays and go to the bars for road races. I’ve never been much of a night owl so it works out great.
Earlier this month I joined the Somerville Road Runners for the annual An Ras Mor 5k. It starts at the Asgard in Cambridge and does a nice loop down Mass Ave and back up Prospect (a new course this year). It’s a flat and fast route perfect for a speedy 3.1 miles. The day before I had run 12 miles mostly on the Newton hills so my legs were pretty tired but I was okay with pushing them a little this week. I thought maybe I could average 7:30’s but it just didn’t happen and I crossed in 23:43. Still a great workout and I enjoyed myself. Rookie racer, Stacey, has been working hard to increase her speed and she had a huge PR. She crossed the finish line with an enormous smile and beaming with pride for crushing her goal. In other firsts – my girl Kate finished her first race with ‘baby on board’. She said it was a big adjustment for her to take it easy and manage her effort along the way but she had a lot of fun. It’s great to see her being able to incorporate exercise into her pregnancy after having to take a break for a while.
You never know what you are going to get for early March and this day was pretty chilly. We stayed outside for a little while to indulge in the complimentary beers from Peak Organic but quickly moved inside to the Asgard for a little brunch. When I got home I looked up my time from this race in 2009 and it was exactly the same! Technically it was a different course but still a funny coincidence.
This past weekend I was all set for the New Bedford Half Marathon. I’ve been looking forward to this race since the weather was looking good and I was anxious to make up for the challenge that was the Hyannis Half. It’s another fast course with just a few hills and I was feeling strong leading up to the race. I planned to travel down with my morning running partner, Chrissy Horan, and her boyfriend, Brian. Brian was willing to drive us so we could relax on the way down. The race didn’t start until 11:00 but we were hoping to get there early to pick up our numbers, get organized and do a warm up. Sunday morning was chilly and there was definitely a breeze so I had some trouble making a decision on what to wear. I debated between capris and long tights for a while but reminded myself that I would warm up quickly on the course. I decided on capris tights, a green short sleeve I bought with this race in mind and arm warmers. I always buy inexpensive arm warmers so I know I have the option to toss them on the course. I also opted to start with gloves that I was okay with throwing away.
Brian kindly took our bags back to the car and wished us luck while Chrissy and I headed to do our warm up. We did a 2 mile out/ back loop strategically stopping at a McDonalds on the way back for a bathroom break knowing the lines back at the race would be long. We headed to the start and found our way close to the front where we stood shivering for several minutes before the start. On the way down I asked Chrissy what pace she was planning to run. She sounded undecided but thought she would plan for an 8:20 average. I knew I was shooting for a little faster but figured it would be a good start to run that pace the first few miles so I figured I would run the first half with Chrissy and then see how I felt. The gun went off and we both took off at strong pace. It was a bit faster than I thought we were planning but if we were both feeling good – why not? At the first mile I looked down to check our pace and we had averaged 7:46. I wasn’t sure which one of us was setting that pace so I backed off a little and Chrissy quickly disappeared up ahead. I slowed down to an 8:05 average and decided to settle into that for the middle of the race. I’ve discussed my half marathon strategy before that I like to use the first few miles to feel out my body for the day, the next 7 to focus on a goal pace and step on the gas for the last 3. I never set a clear goal but the 8:05’s felt comfortable so I stuck to that that for the majority of the race. I had a few faster miles and thought maybe in the last three of the race I could speed up and bring my average pace down to 8:00. Apparently, I had forgotten the challenge of the last few miles of this course. At mile 9 we turn to make the 2nd half of a loop along the water and welcomed a major head wind. I was also beginning to run out of fuel. That morning I had made the unfavorable discovery that I was out of Vanilla Bean Gu (Noooooo!) I did grab a honey stinger just in case I really needed something and took it at mile 10 for a little boost at the end. It may have been too late but mentally at least I felt like I had something to help me along. I struggled through the wind and an incline that held me back from speeding up but I was muscling through the last of the race. Doing math in my head (not my greatest strength) I knew I was going to finish around 1:47 and I was perfectly happy with that. It was faster than I had originally planned and a significant improvement from last month’s race in Hyannis. I did finish in exactly 1:47:00 and very proud of my race. Also, I beat Batman who was walking around mile 10. I’m not sure he would have worn the cape if he knew about the head wind.
The race was very well organized and had great support. It started on time, the waterstops, all manned by volunteers from the community, were consistent and not too crowded and there seemed to be lots of support all along the course. Brian saw us a few times along the course and was able to snap some pictures but my favorite cheerleader was the hound around mile 6 who howled in support as all the runners ran by.
After finishing I found Chrissy and Brian quickly. We spent a little time stretching but we were both eager to get back to the car to warm up and change. We were all in agreement that it was time to celebrate so we headed back toward home and went to an old favorite in Brighton, The Stockyard, for their annual St. Patrick’s Day party. I’m not sure how I had never experienced this before, but Corned Beef and Cabbage is a terrific post-race meal, plus I had plenty left over for seconds later on in the evening.
Later that night I checked my results against the last time I did this race in 2009. They didn’t have starting mats that year so it was only gun time but once again my gun time results were the same as in 2009! Same exact pace. Two consecutive races this month that I have finished in the same time as I did in 2009. What are the chances?! And more importantly, does it mean something? Later in 2009 I got on a roll and started to earn PR’s in every race I did. Is that in the cards for me this year? Honestly, I wouldn’t put money on it, but it’s exciting to know I’m at least not getting much slower!