Three years ago, I came up to Portland, Maine to watch one of my best friends get married. I clearly wasn’t a very active person; my idea of activity at the time included a trip to the gym maybe once a week. If I was lucky.
A few months ago, Lizzy and Lindsay and I started talking about the Freeport Half. Lindsay was flying home from Hawaii, and Lizzy was driving up from outside of Boston. If Lindsay could fly 6,000 miles for a race, I could certainly travel 325 miles. Done.
After a carb-tastic pasta salad dinner (I believe it included bowtie pasta, basil, feta, olive oil, grape tomatoes and awesomeness), we got to bed early so that we could be up and at ‘em by 5:30. After the sprint tri and the Queens Half, 5:30 was sleeping in. (One day, I would like to actually sleep in, but that’s a different topic for a different day.)
We drove from Westbrook to Freeport, and started getting intimate with the bathroom in the Hilton. A real bathroom before a race? Whoa.
Oh, and apparently Lindsay and I were being mean to Liz.
“You KNOW we only hang out with other blond girls.”
(I don’t actually know why we’re both making such bitchy faces.)
I <3 Sweat. Clearly.
We hung out for a little while before lining up. Second difference: there were no corrals. After running so many crowded NYRR races, this was both really nice and really weird.
There were only 274 runners! This was the whole field! (Also, #81? If you are reading this, I would like your abs. Thanks.)
(And thanks to Judy, Lindsay’s mom, for being our race chauffeur and photographer.)
Before I continue, I’d like you to take a look at this elevation profile.
There was basically no flat land in this course. The hills just kept coming. I live in NYC and mostly train along the Hudson River on the path there, so this elevation map made me very nervous last night. I wanted to PR, but I realized it might not be possible.
Early in the race, Liz tried to tell me that it was really hard to PR during marathon training. I’m not sure if she meant to do this, but it gave me that extra fire in my belly.
What’s that? It’s hard? Oh, you just watch me.
Lindsay dashed off ahead of us, but Liz had promised to pace me. We stuck together for the first 9 hilly, hilly miles, incredulous at how hilly the course was. We ran our first mile in 8:30-something, and when I looked at my watch, I knew that it was either going to be a great race or a terrible race. If I could hold on to a fast pace, it would be great. If not, it would be hard. Early on, the hills scared me. I really thought that a PR wouldn’t be in reach, so I didn’t look at my watch until after we were at halfway.
We got to 6.6 in exactly an hour, and I got cautiously excited. I knew that if I could hold on to the pace I was at, I had it, but I knew there was a big hill coming up. I kept plugging along and didn’t look at my watch again until Liz and I separated somewhere between miles 9 and 10. Liz and I had talked about a pace band, but never looked one up. By doing some quick mental math, I figured that if I could 10 miles by 1:30 and hang on to that pace, I’d be golden. I could certainly run 3.1 miles in 30 minutes. I could certainly keep under a 10-minute pace.
At that point, my strategy was just to run as strong and hard as I could. From here on out, I concentrated on holding my core taut. It’s something you’re supposed to do anyway, but I always forget. I’m not sure why I did it, but it definitely helped me feel stronger.
From 10-12, I ran at pretty close to a 9-minute pace. It was difficult, but doable. I hit mile 12 at 1:48ish and knew I had 12 minutes to make my goal of sub-2:00.
After mile 12? I. RAN. LIKE. HELL. There was no way in hell I was going to let this goal eclipse me yet again. Lindsay’s mom took this picture as I rounded the corners that took me from 13 to 13.1. She said that she wish she got a picture of the crazy look of determination on my face, but all I remember is smiling as I saw Lindsay’s mom, and nearly crying when she said “The New York Marathon will be a piece of cake after this!”
This was my fifth half-marathon this year (recaps here), and I spent the first three aggressively chasing my sub-2:00 goal. (The fourth half-marathon was run just as a long training run.) Today was going to be the day that I beat it.
AND. I. DID. I ran 13.1, glorious hilly miles in 1:58:27. (9:01 pace!)
Major thumbs up! When the medal dude put the medal around my neck (after I nearly ran him over crossing the finish line), he said “you really earned this,” and I nearly teared up again. While it would have been awesome to have achieved this goal earlier this year, trying for it and narrowly missing it so many times made achieving it today so much sweeter.
Still happy! (And sweaty. My apologies to anyone I traveled with today who got a whiff of Eau de Theodora Ran a Half Marathon.)
And then Lindsay and I ran 3.5 more miles on the way home to round us off to 16.6, or as I call it, nearly 17, so we could hit our mileage goals for the day. And then, I was really tired. And hungry.
But refueling at The Front Room with a giant plate of eggs, toast and bacon with an Allagash White helped.
I know that running a 1:58 half on a hilly bitch of a course means I have an even faster PR in me, but for now, I am plenty happy with this one.
Thanks to everyone for your awesome tweets, Facebook messages, texts and smoke signals.
Tell me about your most epic PR. And your favorite beer.