Short stories from long runs

This blog about my run and training

Clever name, right?!

Yesterday’s Happy Holidays Half MerryThon was, for me, the race that almost wasn’t. I took it super easy from running last week and as the weekend approached, still hadn’t given much thought to actually running. I had signed up for the race, which takes place along the coast of Gloucester and Rockport, Mass., with my friend Kaitlyn, but two weeks ago she got a new job that had her packing her bags and heading out of town. The prospect of schlepping an hour or more to the North Shore solo on a Sunday morning just wasn’t that enticing. Then, my husband, who is a total anti-fitness enabler, pulled the just skip it and sleep in schtick. I was so, so tempted.

Instead, I headed north and arrived by 9 AM. Thank goodness for such a lovely, humane 10 AM start time. It was freezing when I arrived at Good Harbor Beach, but also spectacularly beautiful. Picking up my number and shirt was really easy and I was back in my nice, warm car by 9:15 to assess my fashion situation.

It was in the mid-twenties, so I went with full tights, a long sleeve race tee, and my old North Face running jacket that I purchased out of fear (of rain) pre-Dublin Marathon in 2007. I wore my flip back mittens and an ear warmer, too. I haven’t run in the cold in awhile and overdid it a touch.

The race was small, about 1,000 people running the half, so the race started right on time and quickly. There weren’t pacers or anything indicating average pace at the start, but I heard some girls talking around me… One aiming for 1:45, another for 1:50 and a bunch who said that was way too fast for them, so I assumed myself the average and started with the group.

One quick thought from this race: way to go, ladies! Women were dominating this race… From my entirely unscientific observation, I’d say 70% of runners were women. Killing it.

This course was pretty hilly, plus out and back, so the rolling hills felt pretty constant. I remembered thinking the 10K course was more challenging than I expected last time I ran the Lone Gull 10K (different course, same town), so I was a little nervous. Mile one clocked in around 8:05 and mile two a bit slower than that. The hills started at two and I felt  pretty mediocre, so I slowed down a bit. I also thought about bailing at mile two and walking back to the car, but couldn’t handle Nik saying “told you so” AND driving 100 miles round trip only to run four miles. My legs felt tight and heavy, but I kept moving and hoped they would shake out.

Miles three and four were gorgeous. You’ll just have to trust me because I didn’t run with my phone or a camera. Use your imagination. The whole course was, really, but while feeling crummy I told myself to focus instead on the spectacular views as a distraction and to think about being able to run the race, instead of having to. Works like a charm. My pace bounced from 8:15 to 9:15 for a stretch and the mile markers never exactly coordinate with my GPS. One mile would clock in short and another nearly exactly. Secretly, I hoped the course would be short– less running, woohoo!

Somewhere around mile five I saw the race leader cross back at mile eight with a solid lead, but a handful of speed demons (including a woman!) in hot pursuit. The turnaround at six and a half was in downtown Rockport, which is incredibly picturesque and is the town where The Perfect Storm took place.

I started taking beans right around the halfway mark and got an immediate jolt, so decided to keep taking two or three around each mile marker for the rest of the race.

My college roommate Gus is from Rockport, where his dad runs a lobster boat, so I enjoyed looking at all the boats in the harbor as we ran through. I also brought Gus home to his parents’ house once and even though it was a super dark, foggy night at the time, I felt like his house was around the bend for most of the race, so I was on the lookout. I finally found his mailbox between miles seven and eight.

I have to say, the second half of the race flew by. The mile markers seemed impossibly close together. I’m not sure if it was the fuel, or being on the way back to the finish, but I felt remarkably better. The 1:50 girl from the start (who was dressed as an elf) was in the distance and I passed the 1:45-goal girl (who must have been having an off race because it was clear I wasn’t having a record-setting day), so I made it my goal to push harder and start reeling people in. One woman in particular had been running close by since mile four and was picking it up, so I attached myself to her hip and hung in there.

At mile 10, I realized I was running strong enough to finish under 1:55 and by mile 11, I thought I could get close to my personal best 1:52. Mile 11 clocked in at 8:11, but I was still iffy about the last hill I knew was coming at mile 12. Good news is it was shorter than I expected and I was up and over and on my way quickly. With one mile to go, I booked it (as best I could), finishing my last mile sub-8, but missing my PR by 21 seconds. Classic Jill move, but on a tough course and wicked cold morning with little motivation, I was pumped.

Last race of the year: 1:52:24. Second best half yet.

I grabbed a free hot chocolate from a taco truck and a bag of potato chips and headed straight for the car, where I nestled into my seat heaters and cranked the heat to 85 for the drive home.

My body is regretting that move, as the tightness in my hip was INTENSE upon arrival home… Apparently running for two hours in the cold and then folding into a seated position for the hour drive home without stretching isn’t advisable. I’m also having a little popping sensation in my low calf (above my Achilles) at random this morning, so I’ll be enjoying a rest day today.

How’s everyone’s Monday so far? I drove a half hour to the train only to realize my wallet was in my race bag and had to go home and do it all again. Total commute this morning? Two and a half hours. I’m an idiot.