So my running partner had signed up for a half marathon for this weekend- only 5 weeks til the race. She had a lofty goal of doing 1 half marathon each month (Feb, March, April) and getting progressively faster at each one. She neglected to take into account that they went in the order of least hilly to most hilly...but that's besides the point. In any event, when I told her she should run my 3:10 with me, she was hemming and hawing about losing the money from the race, so I said I'd sign up too and we'd run 1 hour before the race and use it as a training run. I had read about people doing this, and it seemed like a good idea. First of all it forces you to finish your run. Secondly, you don't have to carry water. Thirdly, it's great practice for being in a race situation nearing your breaking point, which I am certain will happen in the actual marathon.
So, bright and early we headed the 1.5 hours to NH to the race, got our packets, sat in the car deciding what to wear (the weather was sunny and mid 40s). We had been chatting with the race director at packet pickup and he suggested a nice, not too hilly, long road that we could do our first hour as an out and back. So, around 9:45, we set out and enjoyed the slight rolling hills and gorgeous river and farm scenery. We turned around about 3 miles in and headed back to drop off stuff at the car (I had carried water for the first leg, and then we both decided long sleeves were too warm!). We hit the portapotties and jogged over to the race start, having already clocked just over an hour and a bit over 6 miles. We lined up with the 9:30 pacer, thinking we could stay with her to avoid going too fast and hit where we thought our goal pace would be.
And, we were off!
The first few miles were really beautiful- there wasn't anything too hilly and before we knew it we were at mile 3, staying either with the pacer or just ahead. Then we got to the dirt road section- hillier, rougher terrain with stones and pebbles everywhere, and I started to get a bad side cramp. Sigh. Well, luckily we weren't trying to PR this race! We chugged along hitting the water breaks and heading up and down the hills. After a few long miles, we were finally back on pavement, but the biggest hills were to come. We kept plugging along and trying not to think of the terrain as we enjoyed looking at the lavish houses near the sparkling water. It was truly a gorgeous morning for the race! There were some performers on the course as entertainment - including a roller blading-hula hooping- violinist, a little banjo related ensemble, and belly dancers! There were also bikers on the courses willing us up the hills saying, the worst is over. Not sure how many times we heard THAT on the course before we stopped believing it! But, all of these were welcome distractions and we kept plugging along.
At some point we got behind the pacer, but all decided she was running a VERY fast 9:30 pace because almost all of my mile splits were under 9:30 (although obviously the garmin clocks more mileage)...it was getting to the point where our "easy 9:30 half marathon training run" was getting quite difficult! The course was mostly a loop with a large lollipop between miles 9-12. I stopped to tie my shoe around mile 11 because my shins and ankles were starting to hurt, as well as a spot on the bottom of my foot. We finally got to the end of the lollipop and there was only 1 mile to go, which also had a couple irritating hills. The run passed the town hall which I remembered from our drive in so I knew we were close to the end. My friend zoomed ahead to the finish, but I was in a little pain so I just took it easy and picked it up for maybe the last 30 seconds. After finishing the race, I had about 4 min to go to hit my workout time, so I jogged around a parking lot til I hit 3:10 and exactly 20 miles for the day!
Post race, it had gotten overcast, and we were in tank tops and getting cold. We grabbed pizza, which turned out to be a less than good idea for our stomachs and hobbled back to the car to head back. We were chatting about how tough this race was but how good it was that we did it as a training run- it challenged us in many ways- we did not walk up a single hill, we kept a decent pace, we were in a position where we were forced to keep running to get to the end and couldn't cut the run short, and pushed ourselves on a very difficult training run. And - we got a medal and a tshirt bragging that we survived the hills of the great bay half. Despite the difficulty of the race, it was super well organized. There were accurate mile markers, pacers, plenty of water, entertainment, safety bikers, and a great post race party. I'm not sure I would want to tackle these hills again but I would definitely do more races through this organization.
One more LONG run to go!