Nothing like coming back to blogging with a race recap, right? Right. Welp, let’s get to it then!
Last time I popped in (February – eek!), the first race on my 2013 calendar was the New Jersey half-marathon. While that’s still alive and well on my calendar, I was itching to get another 13.1 under my belt before then. While I scoured the Internet for something to fit the bill, everything before May seemed to fall on St. Patrick’s Day. Ick! While I loved racing on St. Paddy’s Day last year in D.C., I knew there was no way I could make that work this time around. I spent February 22-March 24 traveling each weekend or hosting friends and fam.
Visiting Karla in Iowa!
Anyway, after exhausting all my options for well-known races that weren’t too far away – let’s not forget that all the aforementioned travel plans left my bank account seriously drained – I started digging for smaller ones. Finally, halfmarathons.net found me a winner in the quaint little town of Brunswick, Maine!
“Maine? I’ve never been to Maine. Dustiiiiiiiiiin – want to go to Maine so I can run another half in April? I get to run on an airport runway and the medal looks like an airplane!!!”
Whip out my credit card and immediately register.
That’s how that conversation went. He thought the “running on an airport runway” thing was pretty cool, too.
Now that I’ve run the race, let me tell you something: running on an airport runway in the beginning of April, after a brutally long winter, is not quite as cool as it sounds.
Scratch that. It’s cooler than it sounds. And when I say cooler, I’m talking in terms of temperatures. Translation: it was freaking freezing!
And holy wind, batman. Holy wind.
But let’s backup a smidge. Dustin and I took Friday off and made the 5.5-hour drive to Brunswick so we had plenty of time to pick up my bib, relax and explore. Turns out we needed all of five minutes for bib pickup. There wasn’t an expo, and we picked up at Maine Running Company – a great running store located right in the heart of town. After, we checked out the shops nearby and picked up dinner at Flipside, a local pizza joint with great reviews on Yelp.
The rest of the evening was uneventful, and pre-race rituals went smoother than ever. The start gun didn’t fire until 9:30am, so I even slept in until 7am! Around 8am, the rest of my cheering squad showed up!
My Aunt Sue, Uncle Dave, cousin Joclyn and her friend Quinn drove 2 hours Saturday morning to come watch me run and I could not be more grateful. I never asked them to do so, or even really brought up the race – my aunt saw I would be nearby on Facebook and shot me a few texts to confirm the whereabouts. They had never seen me run before, and I was so stoked every single time I spied them on the course.
Speaking of race support – I don’t know if it was because it was a small race, because it was cold or something else, but the spectators were basically nowhere to be seen. As an out and back course, there were multiple opportunities for crowds to be out, but they just weren’t there. Certain areas were blocked off strictly for runners, so obviously that lacked any cheerleaders, but when I saw my family, they were the only ones out there. While it made me feel extremely loved and even more energized to run a strong race, I couldn’t help but feel sad for the other runners on the course. I can’t say it enough – CROWD SUPPORT IS SUCH A BIG DEAL FOR RUNNERS. Even though we only see you two, three or four times on the course – and for about five seconds each time – knowing we’re going to see you soon is such a mental boost to keep moving. And once we actually see you, it’s like a smile is plastered all over your face for at least another mile and you sort of forget that you’re running. Sort of.
OK, that was really my only complaint of the race.
Going into this race, I had no goals. I just wanted to run strong, be happy and enjoy Maine. And I did something I’ve never done before: I ran without a watch.
But that’s for another post.
Basically, I refused to stress and ran at a comfortably hard pace. I had the Runkeeper app on my phone (amazing, btw), which sent me distance updates every 5 minutes. Otherwise, I just jammed out to my playlist – Luke Bryan’s new album FTW – and tried to ignore the constant headwind. The good thing about the “breeze?” It made my thighs numb, so my quads didn’t feel anything until about mile 9. Oh, I didn’t mention that? Yeah, the course was relatively hilly, too. Nothing like Nashville, but still.
Despite the chilly weather, quiet crowd support and hills to conquer, I was having the time of my life. My body felt great, I knew I was running at a good clip and I was just happy to be there. I popped Clif shot blocks at miles 6, 8 and 10 and attempted to drink water while running at every other stop. At mile 10, I flipped the pace option on to see where I stood, and realized I could PR. Game on.
Around mile 11, my legs started to protest. Throughout the race, different songs kept me feeling strong because they brought up awesome memories with friends – “Never See Your Face Again” by Maroon 5, for example, reminded me of my recent visit in Iowa with Karla, when we drooled over Adam Levine – so I cranked up those tunes again. About a half-mile later, my app chirped in saying I was picking up the pace. While my legs didn’t want to go faster, I was hungry for more. So I channeled Abby’s voice in my head and kept chanting, “It’s supposed to hurt. You’re supposed to be uncomfortable. Keep pushing. This is worth it.”
Let me tell you, it worked.
Despite the terrible headwind and last final hill from 12.75-13.0 (thanks, race directors), I sprinted my little legs out and really raced the last 5K. Finally, I rounded the last corner and spotted the finish line. With one final kick, I gave it all I had and heard my name announced as I crossed with a 2-minute PR attached to my name.
Oh, that person about two steps behind me? I had no idea they were there until medal was in hand and a space blanket was being wrapped around me. Oops.
Race the Runways was a fun, small race that I would recommend to anyone looking for a no-frills race. It was cool running on the airport runway, but let me tell you – do not underestimate the wind. I counted my lucky stars that most of my training runs happened by the water, so I was already used to facing a headwind. Mix in a little hill training, and you’re set to go.
2:04.01 is my new half-marathon PR and I couldn’t be happier in this moment. While I’m going to continue to ride the runner’s high, I have one thing mingling in the back of my mind: sub-2, I’m gunning for you next month.