Race Stories: My Run along the Coast

Over the weekend, I shared with you a “time to run” which covered my thoughts around the book “Born to run.” I realized though that I never shared my run  details at the Seacoast Half Marathon, that I completed a week ago! I gave you a review of the course but not how I navigated it. So here it is.

It as a cold Sunday morning for a race. The wind was blowing and the temperature reading in the car was 39 degrees. I was debating going with the compression socks but as soon as I stepped out of the car, the decision was made for me! On. I generally like to get to races around 45 minutes before so I can just get focused, get my gear in order and make sure to fuel if needed. So I got there 45 minutes before and was ushered down the road to a parking lot 5 minutes away. 

Walking over, I began to question something in regards to my gear. I had gloves and a hat on but nobody else did. Sure plenty of headbands were around but very few hats. My first thought was “are these people nuts?” I would get my answer to this question at mile 5 when I began to drop with sweat! I ventured into the High school to keep warm and wait for the start which was still about a half hour away. With quick access to the bathrooms in the school versus the porta potties outside, I had quick access to them and then made my way out to the starting line.

 

 Decision time. Do I start in the back of the starting line crowd like I had in the past and work my way up? Do I start in the front and see if I can hold pace with runners much faster than me? Previously for the 2 halfs I had run, I started from the back and such worked against me though – in the second half I ran up in Maine as I was stuck in a group/pack of slow runners for the first mile running down commerix street. This time I was determined to prevent such from happening again! 

I ventured up to the 8 min/mile pacer and waited. It was a long wait sitting in the cold. Stretching to keep loose, the crowds started to gather around me. I guessed that others had the same idea I had about not being stuck in the back! I pushed further up but found myself in an awkward spot on the sidewalk and not the street. I did not feel like cutting someone off crossing the starting line so I worked my way back into the middle of the group. After the national anthem, we were ready! And then we were off.

So my plans for halfs have evolved over the past year. For my first, I ran the first two miles at 2 minutes slower per mile than my fastest time. For my second, I tightened that up to 1 minute. For this one, I was going at my training pace as I figured I could sustain it for 13 miles. So I burst out of the gate and zoomed down the street. After a mile I looked at my watch and found I was running at a pace 1 min/mile FASTER than my best time. At this point I had to slow down…but I felt great! Why bother?

We passed through neighborhoods and along the beach and I took in the sites and sounds along the way. There was a band playing around mile 2 and another around mile 5 (I think). There were many people along the route who were holding funny signs and blowing horns. Children were holding out their hands for “high fives” and looking for the people they knew in the race. We crossed over bridges and fought some stiff winds as well. The race truly had it all and I was still holding strong 2 miles in. But that was about to change.

 

 For the first few miles, I did my best to pass people along the way but when one bursts out ahead of the pack at a pace that is far too fast, passing people is not so easy! First the 7min/mile pace group went by me and then an assortment of others. I honestly felt like I was being swallowed up by one pack after another as they just ran around me. Another runner in barefeet screamed by me with nothing on but shorts and a short sleeve shirt! I was getting discouraged to say the least! 

That is when I looked at my watch again and realized that I was running a PR pace for me and I felt great physically (aside from the cold). I continued on and settled into a groove if you will. I stuck to the 8 min/mile pace group and maintained that level for about 10 miles. Around mile 7 after continuing to push, I started to feel a bit strange. My legs were getting uneven and I felt I was losing focus. I could even listen to my audible book as for some reason, I was loosing touch. That is when I realized that I was “bonking” and luckily I had started using s GU shot about 10 minutes before. I sucked down the rest of it and within minutes I was refocused!

So as I moved through the last few curves and crossed bridges along the way, the wind really began to pick up. It was like running into an industrial powered fan at times and with only 2 miles to go, I started thinking, “darn, I am going to lose my PR.” I continued on and this is when I kicked things into overdrive. The Fartlek training and hill climbing I had done over the past month was coming into play now. On the downhills I pushed hard passing people along the way. Then my watch signaled 13 miles and that is when I saw it! The hill that I was not prepared for…

The day before the race, I ventured out to see what the route looked like. Like many races, there was a video online for the Seacoast Half but I wanted to see it up close and personal because you cannot get such from the videos or through my Garmin Connect app. So as I drove along the course, I realized that it was getting late so I headed home – as a result, I had only drove HALF THE COURSE! I also realized, while running uphill, that I did not watch the whole video either! I was definitely not prepared for the end of this race.

  So as I made the last kick up the hill, I passed by four others and I was pushing hard! However, I did not realize that my energy level was dropping and as I came over the hill, I was left with little in the tank. But I continued on and as I took the corner, I could hear cheering from behind me. Was it for me? No. It was coming from behind me after all. Coming up fast was a runner who was older than I and he was chugging! He was one of the guys I passed on the “hill” and ran that hill the way I should have. He took the corner and was right on my heals as if he bad decided that I was going to be his next victim. Luckily I found some strength and finished strong just in front of him. As he crossed the line a few seconds behind me finishing the half in 1:45, the crowded cheered loudly which was just a great moment. This runner was 68 years old and beat 80% of the field! Simply awesome.

In the end, I would finish with a new PR and my time was good enough to be in the top 15% of the runners which was by far my best showing. I left nothing on the course and now I am ready for the next race…wherever it may be.

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