Saturday, October 22, 2011

Bay State Half Marathon - 10/16/2011

 So, race day came along and it was time to run.  My sister came up for the weekend, and Monica was in her usual race photographer mode. A bunch of friends who signed up weren't able to run due to injuries, and I was almost in the same boat with constant leg cramps that left me unable to do any long training runs in the past six weeks.  I felt somewhat unprepared, and was worried about how my legs were feeling in the hours before the race.  My goals were:
  1. Don't get hurt
  2. Try to maintain a 10:00 pace
  3. No walking
  4. Enjoy myself
 The alarm went off at 5:00 and I assembled my gear for the day.  I had my belt with two Gu packets and a Clif bar, one small bottle of Gatorade, plus my phone in case I dropped during the race and needed to connect with Sue and Monica. It was a shorts and t-shirt day, perfect running weather. I had my oatmeal for breakfast and ate a banana, and grabbed water and a bagel for the drive up. We headed north right on schedule at 5:45, arriving at the parking garage in Lowell at 6:30.  By 6:45 I was in the Tsongas Arena stretching and keeping an eye on the bathroom line. Sue and Monica headed out to find a Dunkin' Donuts, which, being Massachusetts, wasn't hard.

 While stretching I spotted Adam, who unfortunately wasn't feeling well. His friend was recovering from being hit by a car one week before this, his first marathon. And Miriam wasn't able to train due to injuries for this race so the whole world was suffering along with me.  I continued by stretching, started warming up a bit, and got in line for the bathroom again.  Monica and Sue came back with their bagels and tea, much happier.  At 7:45 the masses started out to the start line, which was right in front of the arena.  I wandered into the corral and started getting my brain around the task at hand.  I was relaxed, and spent some time observing all the runners around me.  It was pretty easy to spot the first time runners, the old hands, and folks like me who were wondering if they could complete the distance. The weather was perfect for the race; cool but sunny and little wind.

 We all stood silently for the national anthem and then moved forward for the starting count down. 3, 2, 1, and we were off, although it took a good solid minute to reach the start line.  I had a plan and tried to keep to it, slow and steady pace.  Compared to last year I was much further back in the corral so I wasn't passed by as many people in the first mile. Monica was easy to spot in her bright orange jacked at the first bridge so I made sure I was on the correct side of the road and clear of other runners so they would have an unobstructed shot.  I'll do anything for a good photo.  The course is a double loop, and the first part is for both the half and full marathoners so there are lots of runners.  I grabbed some water at the first aid station and took in the hill at the first major bridge crossing.  After that we said goodbye to the marathoners (showoffs) and reached the far end of the loop where we cross the river and start back towards home.

 I was feeling OK, not perfect but OK.  At one point I felt a little tightening up in my right calf so I slowed the pace a bit and shifted my stride, and it seemed to go away.  You can run on the dirt path along side  the road here and I did, taking advantage of the softer surface.  I walked briefly at the next two water stops, mainly so I wouldn't spill Gatorade all over myself.  I saw Sue and Monica again on the opposite side of the bridge around mile 5 and hit the downhill back to the end of the first loop.  Unlike last year, we weren't finishing at the baseball stadium so there weren't any crowds there.  Back past the starting line and on to loop #2 and I ate my first Gu.  I began feeling a bit more comfortable here, just 6 miles to go.  Monica and Sue were there again at the bridge and I knew that the next time I saw them I'd be almost done.  Miles 8-11 were fine; no pain and some nice conversations with other runners about donuts and the weather.  My pace had slowed a bit, I was running 10:15 but this is where my cramping occurred in the past and I was very leery of pushing the pace.  After seeing my cheering squad at the last bridge pass I decided it was time to eat my second Gu and pick up the pace a bit.

 But, there really wasn't anything in the tank.  I went a little faster, but not much. This is where I could definitely feel the lack of training; my legs were on cruise control and nothing was going to make them feel good.  Past the stadium and now I was smelling the finish line.  Unfortunately with the new layout of the course you can't see the finish line until the last 100 yards. I like seeing the finish line.  Not much of a sprint for me and I got passed by a few people who still had something in the tank, but I didn't really care. Monica and Sue were at the finish line too (how did they get there ahead of me?) but this time Monica didn't run onto the course. I must have looked great in my mylar blanket because a volunteer walked with me from the finish line until she handed me off to Monica.  I felt fine, but needed food and drink.  Ah, chicken noodle soup and salty chips tasted great and we sat for a bit while I ate and stretched.  Then I checked my time (2:11:03, my slowest half marathon of the three I've run) and we headed for the car.

 It was an interesting race for me.  I've been injured for a while, unable to make any long runs and always suspicious of my own body to fail.  It was in my thoughts the entire run this day, constantly checking on my legs and seeing if they were going to turn on me.  But the stretching, the pace, and the hydration all worked well for me. As I head into winter I will cut back on some of the running and try for a more balanced routine with cross training to give my legs a break.  The 1/2 marathon distance is a good one for me, and one that I can do better at with some more targeted training.  Perhaps in the spring, it'll be time again.  In the meantime it's working out my winter training routine and skiing.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a well-executed race given how your training, etc., has been. Well done, Dave!