Last weekend was my first race of 2014, the New Bedford 1/2 in Massachusetts. I couldn't believe after a winter of training that the race was finally here.
My training went well, despite alot of things thrown at us by Mother Nature. I definitely logged alot more treadmill miles than in previous years, but used them to really work on my consistency and endurance, running intervals for distance rather than time. The high point of my training was a fabulous 12 miler with a 12:30 average pace.
I had set 2:45 as a goal finish time, and that run helped solidify that this was truly possible. I still wasn't convinced though. My wonderful trainer Louise and I talked leading up to race day and she kept repeating to me that I had to "get out of my head." I was overthinking it, a big shock to those who know me, I'm sure. ;) Lauren told me that this was a good PR course, so I hoped this would help.
The race itself doesn't start til 11am, so we were able to sleep in a bit before making the 45 minute or so trip from Lauren's house. They offered race morning packet pick up, a great convenience. The later time did make me worry about pre-race fueling. I had a bagel and some peanut butter at 7:30, and then a protein bar around 9:30. This worked well.
Race morning was in the low 30s with approximately 15mph winds. I had stressed all week about what to pack for fears of being either too hot or too cold. Finally Lauren talked some sense in to me, why stress, just overpack. I was glad I did. I ended up wearing my Under Armour tights under my Sparkle Skirt, with a short sleeve shirt under a long sleeve 1/4 zip. I felt the wind race morning and regretted not have ear warmers, but fortunately that regret didn't last long.
I tried to position myself toward the back, but as with all races, the start was still pretty crowded. Rather than starting my intervals right away, I ran for 3 or so minutes until it started to thin out and I felt that I wouldn't be in anyone's way when I took a walk break. I knew from the elevation chart that there were hills in the first 3 or so miles, so I took it pretty easy on them. My split for the 5K was 37:51, still fairly fast, but I kept with it since it felt good.
The next stretch was pretty uneventful as we made our way toward the waterfront. My favorite people on the course may have been the Halfway Cheer Club. They were a welcome sight. At this point though, the miles were still going by pretty easily. My 10K split was 1:15:53 (38:02 for the 5K), so I was still managing about a 12:16 minute pace. I had a nice cushion to still manage a 2:45.
The next 5K is where things got interesting. We made it to the water and actually got to enjoy a tailwind for a bit. I even saw Team Hoyt for a bit. After hearing about Dick and Rick for some time, it was inspirational to share a course with them. I was feeling good and just kept pushing along. As a result, 2 of my 3 miles in the next 5K were under an 11:30 minute pace! I was stunned. I kept muttering "Oh, shit." under my breath when I saw the splits pop up on my watch. My 15K split was 1:51:41 an average 11:33 for that 5K.
This is when it hit me, not only was I going to finish in 2:45, I was actually getting close to my personal best, 2:37:04. This was confirmed when I hit mile 10 at under 2 hours. I knew when I ran that in March 2011 that I ran a consistent 12 minute mile. If I could keep at or near that pace for the remaining miles (just under 4 to be exact), I could actually PR.
I began to fight both a wall and the wind. I knew there was a hill waiting at mile 12 and that I needed a cushion before I got to it. I was still under pace when I got to mile 11, but was definitely wearing down. Once I got to the hill at mile 12 I knew I had to downshift. It was ok if this wasn't a PR. I certainly hadn't expected to be even remotely close to one. The goal was to finish strong and healthy, not overdo it on the first race of the year. The cold and wind had done me in. My lungs were on fire.
At about 12.5 we passed a band playing in a yard. They were belting out The White Stripes' Seven Nation Army. Coincidentally, this song popped up on my iPod at the same time. Any Baltimore sports fan knows the significance of this as a rally cry for the Ravens and O's. I kept hitting it on repeat as I grunted my way toward the finish.
I knew from Lauren that once I made the final turn I'd be in the home stretch. I kept focusing on getting there and holding it together til I crossed the line. I kept close eye on my watch. I knew I wouldn't break my PR, but could I possibly match it?
I crossed the finish line, stopped my watch, and looked down....2:37:37. Wow. I was speechless. I felt like I just ran the race of my life.
I was greeted with celebratory hugs before we made our way to the local YMCA where the pre and post race festivities were taking place. Waiting for us were fish sandwiches and clam chowder. They were perfect to warm up with, and a great end to a fun race. Needless to say, I may have to repeat this one next year and formally chase a new PR.