This race recap is long, and not even remotely book-related. Consider yourself warned.
|Squad goals. Or something. Pre-race group shot!|
The Frederick Running Festival half marathon was an obvious choice for my target race this spring: the start line is 1.3 miles from my house (meaning bib pickup was a breeze, and I didn't have to deal with parking lot insanity the morning of or road closures trying to get to/from the race), and the course goes right through my town and covers most, if not all, of my most common training loops. At its closest point, the course is 1/4 block from my front door; at its furthest, it is 2.5 miles from it. It's a local-to-me race in the most local-to-me sense of the word.
Because I'm so familiar with the course, (and, compared to the two halves I ran last fall, find it relatively flat) and the race counts towards my club's Grand Prix event, I really wanted to PR--but I struggled to know what goal to set for myself. I ran Annapolis in the fall in 2:14:38, so conservatively, I thought I could beat 2:14 for Frederick. But in my heart of hearts, I wanted to run it in 2:10--just under 10min/mile. I've run most of my long training runs in 10:30-11min/miles, so theoretically, this pace seemed doable... but I also know that theory and actuality can fall far, far away from one another on race days depending on any number of factors.
|That's one mostly flat course right there.|
I've run races with the option of pace groups before, but never felt confident enough in my pace or ability to actually try to join one. I was nervous about doing so for Frederick; when you join a pace group, you're given a wristband or back tag or other indicator listing your group to identify you to other runners. In my head, I was worried I'd try to run with the 2:10 group, bonk, and then shuffle, embarrassed, across the finish line with a time not only disappointing to me, but laughable for anyone who saw my pace group marker and finish time. Having an internal goal of 2:10 was one thing; publicly declaring it to others was quite another. (Because of course other runners are in the habit of judging racers who miss their goals, right? At least this is what the voice in my head tells me.)
I sucked it up and joined the pace group. Or, I tried to--but by the time I signed up, the 2:10 group (the most popular in the Frederick Half, apparently) had run out of wristbands. Problem solved!, I thought to myself. Now I can run with the group and not worry about wearing my failure, literally, on my sleeve if I mess up. I shared my goal quietly with Tara of It's Tara Leigh*, who provided sound advice for not going out too fast, and not letting my nerves get the best of me, and with a few of my running buddies.
A group of friends and I walked to the starting line--a nice little warmup. Before the race, I saw lots--and lots--of friends from my training group; this was most everyone's goal race, given that we're the Frederick running club and this is the Frederick running festival, and I can't say how incredible it was to see friendly, encouraging faces pre-race, throughout the race (running and along the sidelines cheering) and post-race.
Looking back over the miles:
Mile 0-1: The sound of thousands of feet pitter-pattering on pavement at the start of a race makes my heart soar every. single. time.
Miles 1-3: The crowds here didn't think out as quickly as I'd have expected them to, so I lose sight of the pacers... but I can hear the 2:10 group cheer each time they pass a mile marker, and I know I'm only a few hundred yards behind them. Plus, I'm running with 3 friends and have plenty to keep my mind off the fact that I have 10 miles left to go. We start the run up Market Street--essentially Frederick's Main Street--a little before mile 3, and it's really incredible to see the downtown road filled up with thousands of runners. There is tons of crowd support here, and lots of noisemakers. I'm having a blast. It's very humid. I eat my applesauce pouch as we cross the marker for mile 3.
Mile 4: It's very, very humid. Did I mention it's humid?
Mile 5: I realize I'm not drinking enough water, so decide to take a cup at every water stop (placed every 2 miles) in addition to drinking as I think to from my handheld. I almost never hit the water stops, so I'm worried about losing time, but I know I'll definitely lose time if I don't make up for the amount that I'm sweating. (On top of the humidity, it's been unseasonably cool around here, so I really haven't acclimated at all to running in warm, sunny weather.) There was a surprising amount of crowd support through the park and around the outskirts of the downtown area, which was fun.
Mile 6: Pop a few beans. I've lost one of the three friends at this point, but I can see her hat bobbing a bit ahead of me so I know she's still truckin'.
Mile 7: Didn't take enough water with the beans, and my stomach's not thrilled about that decision. Drink more water. We come into Hood's campus in this mile, where the relay runners tag off with their partners. I briefly wonder what it would have been like to go to a campus with a quad and green trees, instead of a campus "in and of the city." I stop wondering when I realize I'd done really bad math, and have not 5 but 6 miles left to go.
Mile 8: Accidentally grab a Gatorade instead of a water at a stop and nearly spit it out on the runner next to me. We lose another friend in the chaos of the water stop around here, so it's just 2 of us now.
Mile 9: I tell my friend, "We only have 2 more 2-mile runs!" The woman next to me laughs without smiling. My watch tells me it's low on battery. It also tells me we've run our last nine miles fast enough to hit my 2:10 goal if I can just keep a 10:00 minute pace for four more miles.
Mile 10-11: WHY DO THEY LEAVE THE HILLS FOR THE END GODDAMMIT. Also, the out-and-back on Church Street that looked so, so teensy on the course map feels deceptively, evilly long.
Mile 12: I've run these two hills approximately 1,000 times and am shouting at myself, both in my head and out loud, for choosing to forget that there is a second hill after the monster hill in Mile 10ish. I am so, so mad. I can either walk or pick up the pace. I pick up the pace.
Mile 12.5: Holy shit, those are the pacers. I caught the pacers! I'm still so mad about the hills, about how tired I am, about how tight my hips feel, that I keep picking up the pace solely to prevent myself from stopping. I pass the pacers. I can't believe I pass the pacers.
Mile 13: As we enter the fairgrounds to the finish, we switch from pavement to a crushed gravel horse track. The terrain change is harder on my very fatigued legs than I'd have expected. I haven't left it all on the course yet, so I start to sprint. Like, really sprint. Like, my split for the last 1/10th of a mile is a 7:38; a pace I did not know I was physically capable of running.
Mile 13.1: It takes every ounce of strength in my legs to make myself stop moving as I cross the finish line. I forget to stop my watch immediately, but I think I crossed before the clock hit 2:09. This can't be real. Is this real? I need a cookie. I need a beer.
- Chia Iskate (pre-race)
- Cherry Pie Larabar (pre-race)
- Safeway Apple-Carrot-Mango fruit pouch (at mile 3)
- A handful of Sports Beans (these didn't sit well on my stomach this time around, so I ate only 3-4 across the whole race)
- Brooks PureFlow 5s (241 miles logged)
- Balega Hidden Comfort socks (worth every stinking penny)
- Old Navy compression shorts
- Under Armour running tee (similar)
- C9 sports bra
- TekGear running hat
- Cheap-o sports sunglasses from Kohl's
- Nathan hand-held water bottle
- Runner's Glide (a godsend)
- Plain, boring ol' Chapstick
* Tara also had an awesome (unplanned!) race this weekend; check out her recap here!