Twin Lights Half Marathon – {04.27.2014}

On Sunday morning I finally got to put my training to the test by running the Twin Lights Half Marathon. Going into the race I had 5 main goals, but breaking 2 hours was THE BIG ONE, the one I have been working towards for 12 weeks. I knew I had trained well, but it was far from a sure thing, especially because I chose to make my attempt on such a hilly course.

Prior to race day, I was tempted to abandon my goal, but with the help of some confidence boosting blog comments, I decided not to sell myself short. I refused to let myself focus on my doubts, and I showed up on Sunday morning ready to jump in with both feet.

Race Morning

I woke up at 6:10 AM in order to give myself an hour to slowly get ready. I like to have plenty of time to fart around in the morning, and I’m usually an early riser so this wasn’t a problem. I had plenty of time to eat breakfast, dress in my race day duds, pack up my things, and do some light stretching and foam rolling.

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Breakfast of Champions. (Not pictured: Glass of Water)

By 7:10, Jeff (aka: my personal support staff) and I were out the door. The race wasn’t set to start until 9 AM but packet pick-up started at 7 AM. I wanted to get there early so I could get a t-shirt that fit and we could get a parking spot in the more convenient lot, so we had over an hour to kill after packet pick up. It was cold (40F) and rainy, so we spent most of this time in the car, but with 20 minutes to go, we ventured out to check out the scenery.

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“I’m running a race today! And we’re at the beach!”

Before heading over to the start line, I did some warm up running. Usually, it takes me about a 1/2 mile to get moving and I didn’t want to waste any time during the race for warm up. Of course, I’ve never done this before and ended up standing around for 15 min afterwards, so I’m not sure if it really made even a little bit of difference.

Finally, it was time to line up. I gave Jeff my gloves and jacket, he wished me luck, took one last picture, and I found a spot between the 9 and 10 min/mile signs. They had played the national anthem when the walkers started, so there wasn’t a lot of standing around at the start line. Before long, we were off!

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Mabye I should have left my gloves on.

Early Miles

My goal for the first three miles was to ease into race pace. I did not want to go out too fast, and I focused HARD on staying calm for the first mile. I found a place in the pack (near the middle of the road) and stayed where I was. I purposely avoided zig zagging around people, and I allowed myself to get passed without freaking out. This was difficult, but I knew that keeping up with everyone around me would be a mistake, so I spent the majority of the first couple miles being passed and convincing myself that this was no big deal.

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I’m on the far right in the middle of the road.

I knew from the elevation map that the first three miles were a climb. What hadn’t sunk in when studying the profile was that in addition to the big hills the course was really just one small hill after another after another (rolling hills sounds deceptively pleasant). I guess the 3 large hills masked this fact. Having run in Gloucester and Rockport before this didn’t exactly come as a shock; I just kind of thought to myself “Oh, okay, so this is how it’s going to be.”

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I was tricking myself when I thought this was “only 3 big ones”.

With this realization, I made a decision that I think really affected my entire race. I decided not to hold back on downhills. I’ve never been good at running uphill, (with a lot of hard work and practice I have gone from being abysmal to only slightly below average), but down hills are a different story. I can go pretty fast without feeling out of control and it’s much more comfortable to do this than it is to hold back. For some reason though, I usually force myself to slow down and keep an even pace. I’m not sure why I do this (another question for another time?), and I don’t know what the smart choice is, but in the early miles on Sunday I decided that I was going to let myself fly down those hills, focusing on effort and not worrying about pace.

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I came out of the first 3 miles having run 44 seconds faster than planned. This was pretty perfect. It gave me a little confidence boost going into the middle of the race, but it wasn’t unwisely fast.

Middle Miles

Mile 4 started just as I had finished climbing the first “Big” Hill. At this point, it was time to start pushing the pace a little. My plan was to run “comfortably hard” through mile ten, aiming for 9 minutes per mile. Because mile 3 had come pretty close to this pace I tried not to speed up too much right away, but with a huge downhill mile 4 flew by.

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Rockin’ a downhill.

Despite (or because of?) some decent climbs after this initial downhill mile, the next few miles passed in a blur. These two big hills, one right after another, slowed me down, but there were several distractions that helped take my mind of how hard everything felt. We ran along the coast and through downtown Rockport. The view was amazing and then running through town was fun, as it was the most spectator-ed section along the course.

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Not bad to look at.

As we ran out of town, I ate my first gel (I took an entire mile to finish it) and the fast runners started passing us in the opposite direction. I counted them for a while – 20 men before I saw the first woman – as I climbed one of the hills.

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When my watch beeped at the 7 mile mark, it snapped me back to the moment. I was done with the gel, and we had been out of town for a while. Distractions are great for running up hills, but I needed to stay focused on running. My last few miles had been slower than what I was aiming for, so I needed to get moving.

I started running faster, and it didn’t actually feel that bad. I think the caffeine had kicked in from the energy gel, and then I hit another bunch of downhill sections. We had looped back through town again, which was just as fun as the first time. There were more people out this time, despite the bad weather, and their cheers helped keep me moving.  It was just what I needed to get myself back on track.

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Leaving town for the second time.

As I left the town and spectators behind, my watched beeped for the end of mile 9. I was glad to see another good split time; I had one more mile before my final push. My legs were starting to get tired from all the hills, and the wind and rain had picked up. I was cold – my hands freezing, and it was hard to see the nice views while squinting against the wind and rain, but I was riding high from two speedy downhill miles and cheering strangers. Even though I knew there were a few more hills coming up, I wasn’t afraid. The last two miles had given me a boost, and I’d already climbed the worst hill, so I was feeling confident.  Imagine my surprise when I looked up and saw:

THE BIGGEST HILL I’VE EVER SEEN.

I can’t even understand how that’s possible, I’d already climbed a bigger hill that day and I barely even remember it.  But that one I was coming to…that one was the thing nightmares are made of. I started to laugh. As I passed the last few spectators, one shouted “Don’t worry, there’s no hill there!” And I laughed even harder. It doesn’t sound very funny now, but at the time I thought the whole thing was hilarious. So, in good spirits (delusional), I started to climb.

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You’re kidding, right?

The steep hill lasted for about a half mile before I got some relief (ha!) in the form of small rolling hills. I wasn’t looking at my pace at the time (probably the only reason I didn’t completely give up), but checking after, I found I was over 13 min/mile at some points. There weren’t many people around, but of the ones that were, a few were walking. At the time I thought they were geniuses, and I seriously contemplated walking, too. But I had no plan for walk breaks. Hope was not yet completely lost, and I knew that if I started walking without a plan I would allow myself to walk longer than I should and I would continue to take walk breaks after the hill was over. I have nothing against walk breaks, but I had serious qualms about deviating from THE PLAN.  So I kept running, and after what felt like 20 minutes later, I reached the top of the hill.

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Although my split times weren’t a consistent 9 min/mile pace for these seven middle miles (thanks to the hills), they averaged out pretty perfectly. I finished this section only 1 second slower than planned.

Final Miles

Going into the final miles, I was losing confidence that I would make my goal. I knew that I still had a cushion (~45 seconds) from running a little fast in the early miles, but I also knew that the last three miles needed to be my fastest. (8:50, 8:40, and 8:30, what was I thinking?) The mountain I climbed in mile 10 had really taken it’s toll, and my legs were zapped, but I had promised myself that I would keep pushing, even if I needed to shoot for sub 2:05 instead of sub 2.

The conversation I had in my head when my watch beeped at mile 10 went something like this:

Me: Ugh, 9:28, that was slow.

Smarter Me: So what?! Go faster!

Me: I don’t think I can do this.

Smarter Me: That doesn’t matter. Go faster!

Because I’m so smart, I listened to my inner speedster and tried to find another gear. I knew the worst of the hills were over, and it was time for my second gel. Besides, mile 11 was only supposed to be a little faster than mile 10, I could worry about the last two miles later.

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“The hill is over. Run faster! You’re having fun!”

As I ran over the final miles of rolling hills, I chanted my wish list paces in my head and just did the best I could. My legs were fading from the constant hills, but I was not giving up and I was running as fast as I could. I had switched the display on my watch so I could now see distance, pace, and overall time, (I had been viewing only distance and my split times until this point), and being able to see the clock ticking was good motivation for the end of the race.

In the last 3 miles, I did not hit a single one of my goal times. I finished miles 11 through 13 over a minute slower than I had planned.

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Lucky for me, a half marathon doesn’t end at mile 13.

When creating my pace wish list, I gave myself 2 and half minutes to run the last tenth of a mile. I built in this extra time in case my Garmin distance didn’t match the course or just in case I was close and I needed a little extra time.

When my watch beeped for mile 13, I saw that I had been 30 seconds slower than I wanted, but that didn’t matter. I could see the finish line, and I knew I had plenty of time to reach it. I sprinted the last tenth of a mile and crossed the finish line – exhausted, thrilled, and with a final time of 1:58:29!!!!

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Just like Meb.

I did it! It certainly wasn’t easy, but I pulled it out – and with time to spare! I had my doubts during training, and I certainly had doubts during the race (basically every time I ran up a hill), but I made the decision not to listen to them, and everything worked out just fine!

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Who doesn’t want a picture on the beach with their finisher’s pint glass?

 

 

 

 

 

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First week of April – Resolution Check-In

Well, it’s April. It doesn’t exactly feel like April because Spring has taken it’s sweet time getting here, but the calendar still says it’s time to check in on my resolutions (detailed list here).

  1.  Complete a 1/2 Marathon in Under 2 Hours – I’ll be attempting this at the end of the month!
  2.  Keep up with my Running Blog – Could not be doing better!
  3.  Run a Marathon – I’m 100% sure I want to do one in the fall. Just need to pick it and sign up. And train for it of course. 🙂
  4. Keep a Running Journal – I did this for 4 weeks and did not like it. I still want to give it another chance, though so I’m keeping it on the list for now.
  5. Join a Running Club – I think I’m going to do this after the half marathon.
  6. Volunteer – I’ve been checking out some options on Volunteer Match, but haven’t signed up for anything yet.
  7. Run 2014! (kilometers, that is) – I need to run 113 miles per month for the rest of the year to do this. Given my normal training load, that seems pretty unlikely. But it’s not impossible. I’ll probably revise this down to a more realistic goal when it moves from unlikely to impossible. I am not upset about this at all; I’m psyched about my mileage this year. Last March I ran 27.8 miles (I wasn’t even injured), this March I ran 102.5 miles. I have run twice as many miles this year as I had at the same time last year. That feels like success to me.
  8. Beat Jeff’s 5k PR – No progress on this goal, but I am doing speed work for half training, does that count?

Fun Fact: I don’t like making posts without pictures in them. I’m not really sure I have one that fits for this post, so I’m not even going to try. Here’s a picture of some Panda cupcakes Jeff and I made a couple years ago.

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Too cute to eat? Ha!

It’s March – Resolution Check-In

I feel like I just gave an update from January (probably because I didn’t do that until February was almost half over.) Time to check in on my resolutions (detailed list here).

  1.  Complete a 1/2 Marathon in Under 2 Hours – Training is going well, I did a 10 mile long run last week!
  2.  Keep up with my Running Blog – Check! I’ve upped my goal to two posts per week. And I’m enjoying reading all the other running blogs I’ve found, too. 🙂
  3.  Run a Marathon – I’ve got my eyes on the Cape Cod Marathon in the fall, but nothing’s set in stone.
  4. Keep a Running Journal –  I fell a little behind on the journal, but it’s not a lost cause. I don’t think I really like it. I’m hoping to stick with it at least through the half marathon.
  5. Join a Running Club – Not yet. Waiting until I’m ready to start running outside (it was 5F out this morning?!), because that’s where running clubs meet up.
  6. Volunteer – Not yet.
  7. Run 2014! (kilometers, that is) – I’m pretty far behind. I think I bit off more than I can chew with this one, and I might have to downgrade this to a more realistic 1,000 miles.  I’m pretty happy with how much I’ve been running, though, so it’s not a big deal. (138 miles so far this year! Compared to 93 miles at this time last year.)
  8. Beat Jeff’s 5k PR – Not yet; haven’t run a 5k yet this year.

I’m happy with my progress so far, and I’m looking forward to keeping at it in March! Who can believe it’s March already?!

And March means St. Patrick's day!

And March means St. Patrick’s day!

Ah, Ireland. Someday we will reunite.

Ah, Ireland. Someday we will reunite.

 

February Resolution Check-in

Hey, it’s February! Already. Time to check in on my resolutions (detailed list here).

  1.  Complete a 1/2 Marathon in Under 2 Hours – I signed up and started training.
  2.  Keep up with my Running Blog – I’ve been doing SO good at this! And I love it!
  3.  Run a Marathon – This would happen in the fall, so nothing new here.
  4. Keep a Running Journal – Started the running journal a couple weeks ago. Jury’s still out on whether I’ll be able to keep it up. Also, not sure I like it.
  5. Join a Running Club – Not yet.
  6. Volunteer – Also, not yet.
  7. Run 2014! (kilometers, that is) – Working on it, but I’m behind. I’ve run more miles so far than at the same time last year (80 vs. 66), so that’s a good start.
  8. Beat Jeff’s 5k PR – Nope, haven’t tried yet. But I’m doing speed work for the half, which I think can count as progress on this goal, too.

In my opinion, so far so good. We ARE only 1/12 through the year.  See ya next month!

A Hilly Half?

Before the end of January, I signed up for a spring 1/2 marathon!  This is the one where I’m going to run under 2 hours…at least, that’s the plan.  : )

The race is the Twin Lights Half Marathon. It runs through Gloucester and Rockport, MA. I’ve run 10ks in both places before, and they have been two of the nicest race courses I’ve ever done. I mean check out this picture from the race website –

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The twin lights!

 

Unfortunately, they were also two of the hilliest races I’ve ever done, and this one isn’t any different.  I’m a little nervous that the hills will hurt my chances of getting my time goal, but to be completely honest I’d rather do a scenic, hilly race and miss my time goal than do a boring, flat race and get it. Before I signed up for this race, I actually found out about another half in the area that is on the same day that claims that it is “not scenic, but flat!”, and I STILL chose this one.

So, there it is. I chose to run the hilly race for my time goal. I prefer to think of it as choosing the scenic race…I mean, it starts and ends at a beach, the seashore will be visible for most of the race!  And, that sort of thing can speed me up, too. I don’t really think it was a bad decision.

Plus, I’m going into it knowing the profile, and will just tackle as many hills in training as I can.

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Who knows what an 80ft elevation change really feels like anyways?

I think I only have about 5 readers, but here’s some questions for you special few: Would you chose a tough course for the view when you have a time goal? Is the scenery an important factor for you when choosing a race?

2014 Running Resolutions

In case you don’t already know this about me, I am OBSESSED with resolutions.  I don’t know what it is about them, but I LOVE LOVE LOVE making them and coming up with a plan to follow them.  I usually make a lot of New Year’s resolutions, and this year was no exception.  Sure, when you have 20+ resolutions you don’t always accomplish them (well, basically you never accomplish them all), but if you go into it with that understanding, it’s fine. Some are always more important and become the ones I focus on.  And you can’t always be sure in January what the year will be like so maybe some will fall off the list as unimportant or others will be added.

After almost 2 weeks of thinking it through, I now have my final list of resolutions – broken down by category. 🙂 I’m going to share with you my resolutions from the running category (of course!). So, with no further ado, in order of importance, and with detailed commentary..

Amy’s 2014 Running Goals and Resolutions

  1.  Complete a 1/2 Marathon in Under 2 Hours – My current PR in the 1/2 is 2 hours and 55 seconds, so you might think that breaking 2 hours should be no problem.  But, I fought hard for that time. It was back in 2010, and my goal then was to break 2 hours (what would have been about a 10 minute PR). I trained hard, and ran a great race, but just could not go any faster.  It was so disappointing.  I was in good shape then and probably could have scheduled another race immediately to try again, but I needed a mental break from the goal.  So now, it’s back on my list.  I have my eyes set on a race in late April, so if I do not make it then, I’ll have enough time to try again before the year is over.  I plan to sign up for the race and start training during the last week of January, so soon enough you should hear more about this goal.
  2.  Keep up with my Running Blog – I’ve been having fun blogging over the last two months, and I’d like to keep it going. Reading other people’s running blogs is motivating, and I hope to keep finding good ones to follow. Also, given how much I love when I get comments on my posts, I’d like to start commenting on some of the other blogs I read.  My plan for this resolution is to post at least once a week, comment on someone else’s blog once a week, and to be following at least 12 other running blogs by the end of the year.
  3.  Run a Marathon – Although I had my doubts during training and the first 5 minutes after the race, I’m now finding myself interested in doing another marathon.  The training and race itself were very challenging, and I’m looking forward to that challenge again. While I was training, my sister-in-law made me promise that I would run a marathon with her, so if she’s ready, I’d like to make good on my promise this year.  Also, I think we’ll be able to convince my other sister-in-law to join us!  This wouldn’t happen before the fall, so I don’t need to really even start thinking about training for quite a while. For now, my plan is to investigate race options and decide whether I’d still run a marathon this year if I’d be doing it solo. I’d like to figure that out by May.
  4.  Keep a Running Journal – Not a lot of explanation needed for this resolution.  I got a journal for Christmas, and I plan to start using it when I start training for the 1/2 marathon.
  5.  Join a Running Club – Sometimes when I talk about running, I get overexcited and people give me that look.  Like either I’m faking it or I’m crazy – I’m not sure which one they’d think is better, but I’m not faking it! So I’d like to seek out some other crazy running folks who won’t give me those looks!  (This in no way means that all you non-runners should stop give me these looks, I need them to keep me from going off the deep end.  Keep it up!) My plan for this one is to pick a local running club (there are a few I have in mind), figure out when they run, and what I need to do to sign up. I’d like to get signed up before the end of February.
  6.  Volunteer – I want to do some sort of running related volunteering.  I know there are a lot of great opportunities for this, but I’m not sure what is right for me. My goal for the year is to investigate some options and see what is interesting to me.  Also, as part of this goal I want to volunteer at at least one race before the end of the year.
  7.  Run 2014! (kilometers, that is) – Last year’s mileage goal was to run more than my biggest  year – 650 miles.  However, I passed 650 in June, so I kept resetting upwards until I settled on 900 miles. And I JUST made that goal.  Originally, for this year, I had my eye on breaking 1000 miles, but then I saw a run 2014 challenge.  You can run 2014 miles, 2014 km, or choose your own goal.  I chose 2014 km, which is close to 1000 miles!  I’m not sure whether I’ll get this or not, it’s quite a bit higher than my 2013 mileage, but I think it’ll help keep me motivated when I don’t have a race on the calendar. (P.S. you can check my progress on the sidebar)
  8.  Beat Jeff’s 5k PR – At the end of the year, Jeff helped me beat my 5k PR at the Reindeer Run.  At the time we knew it was a long shot, and didn’t think it would be possible to shoot for his 5k PR.  But now that that’s behind us, I think it would be cool to be able to beat his 5k PR as well.  Which means faster than 25:54 min. (This is only 3 seconds faster than what we ran in December.) This one is last on the list because I have no real plan to focus on it.  I’m hoping that it’ll just work itself out.  In theory, if I can run the 1/2 in less than 2 hours, I should be able to beat this time in the 5k.

Well, there you have it – the great 2014 resolution list!  I know you’re eager to find out how it all turns out, so I’ll keep you updated…maybe monthly?

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