I can’t control the weather yet. I really wish someone had this ability as it becomes an obsession for weddings, holidays, outdoor parties and races! I tend to not get especially crazy about the weather, simply because I like to focus on what I can control – my training, my mental game and my outfit.
As you can imagine, dressing properly for a half-marathon of cold rain can be a bit tricky. And, as everyone knows, weather “predictors” cannot be trusted. Most of the text messages I was receiving leading up to race day were about what to wear. I was happy for the distraction because I was busy obsessing about my tight/sore/achy hamstring. What I would wear on race day, was not a big concern for me and, I was actually glad it was going to rain. Now, don’t get me wrong, I would have preferred an overcast, 45 degree day, however I will take rain any day over heat.
Part of the reason I don’t worry too much about the weather is because I’ve had a lot of experience running in the rain. My very first marathon was in a torrential downpour. My Boston marathon? Almost canceled for the first time in it’s 110 year history, due to a spring nor’easter. Lovely. What can you do? Run.
Runners are a tough bunch and, as much as we may like to hem and haw about the weather, when it comes down to the race, we just suck it up and tow the line. I also read something like how doing anything in the rain makes you feel 10x more badass. This is true.
So, what did I wear? A short sleeve shirt, Oiselle Lux arm warmers and Oiselle lesley knickers. Those arm sleeves are so plush, it was like having a tiny little baby blanket wrapped around each arm for 13.1 miles. They made me want to purr.
Where was I? Oh! Back to the race.
At the start, I tried to just clear my head and stay focused on my goal. What was my goal? To run at least a 1:29 and to be pain-free in the general hamstring area. Neither of these things happened.
My first mile was something that started with a five. Way too fast. I reigned it in to try and stay between a 6:38-6:48 per mile. My Garmin was being naughty and started ticking off miles way before the mile markers. Now, I know I’m not always running the tangents, but I wasn’t that far off. No matter, I kept my pace and ran my race. There was only one issue…
Around mile three, as I was running along minding my own business, I heard someone say “For those of you new to this course, this is Park Street!” WTF? First of all, if you can give a tour, you’re not running hard enough. Second, Park Street is not exactly worth mentioning, as it’s pretty much in the ghetto of Hartford. And then I saw him. It was hard to miss the bright yellow shirt with 1:30 emblazoned across his chest and back. Damnit! Pace leader!
I’m probably not going to win any fans with this, but I kinda hate pace groups. For those of you who are all “what the hell is a pace group?” it’s a group of runners who are led by someone who can pace them to a particular finish time.
I totally get it and I know it’s nice to have someone pace you to your perfect PR however, they are usually going too fast! In my experience, 90% of the time, the pacer gets his or her pack in one to two minutes prior to goal. And, in a sport where seconds are a big deal, minutes can crush a runner.
Unfortunately for me, there were about eight men in the 1:30 pace pack and they took up the whole of the street. I played with them, running in front and then behind them, for the duration of the race. I got a tour of Hartford, but I also had to manage them, along with all the puddles. Not fun. It was also mentally challenging as I was shooting for 1:29 or better, and I couldn’t seem to shake the 1:30 pace group. I tried to remind myself that they are usually too fast and just focus. One of my favorite running mantras came to my rescue – “Set your pace, run your race.”
I also had my sights set on mile 9 and Elizabeth Park. The highlight of the race for me is seeing my kids there. This year, they were with my dad and stepmom, but I wasn’t sure if they would make it. Because of the cold and rainy forecast, I told my dad to make a game time decision.
My father has a very distinct whistle. It’s piercingly loud and like my own signal from Capt. Von Trapp. As I closed in on their ‘usual’ spot in the park, I heard it! As I rounded the corner and saw them, my heart raced and my pace picked up. I was able to hit two perfect high-fives from little outstretched hands and smiling faces. I continued pumping my arms in the air for as long as I thought they could see me, to a chant of “go mommy go!” and then I zeroed in on the last 3.1 miles. #betterthenGU
I’m horrible at math, and this comes in handy at the end of a race. As I said, my Garmin wasn’t behaving and I had the messy 1:30 pace group now in front of me, so I really wasn’t sure where I was going to land at the finish. I knew it was going to be close to 1:29, so I dug it out and pushed hard.
My hammy was acting very strangely though out the race. It was either very painful (for short bouts) or not there at all. I couldn’t figure it out, expect maybe that my body temp was varying because of the temperature, and it was affecting my muscles in different ways at different times? Whatever it was, I was happy that it seemed to be cooperating.
I finally saw a clock at the 11 mile mark and knew I could maybe, just maybe squeak in a 1:28. This is the point when you know how badly you want something. At mile 11 of a half, you’re cooked. Everything in you is ready to just be happy without a PR. Except it wasn’t. I was determined to stay in the moment, control what I could, and run!
As I rounded the final turn toward the finish I couldn’t see the clock. This is just one of the many disadvantages short people have! When the path of giants in front of me finally cleared, I was able to see that it read 1:28:25. Holy shit! RUN! With everything I had left, I pushed to 1:28:53 finish and a personal best by over 40 seconds, and I couldn’t have been happier. At least that’s what I thought…until I found out that I also came in third in my age group out of 526 women! In all the years I’ve been running this particular race, this was a first. I finally did it. YES!
*the 1:30 pace group finished about 10 seconds ahead of me!
Here’s all the stats for those of you who are good at math:
And I’m so happy to report that I wasn’t the only one who had an amazing race! I’m telling you – it was raining PR’s in Hartford last weekend:
Chrissie D. (marathon) 3:39 and a BQ (Boston Qualifier)
Barb B. (half) 2:09 PR
Kevin V. (marathon) 2:51 PR by over 2 minutes!
Shannon K. (half) 1:56 PR
Jess K. (marathon) 4:10 PR by 12 minutes!
All of the above peeps participated in my “dream goal‘ post last week. See what happens when you write down your goals and post them to the world? What the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve! I BELIEVE!
Despite the weather, dreams were made and goals were smashed. I loved watching all the marathoners come into the finish, heads high and eyes wide! They’ve been to hell and back, and have been running for hours to see that finish line. If you ever lose faith in humanity, come and watch the end of a marathon. You won’t believe your eyes.
Of course, after all that excitement, it was time to EAT! Some of my favorite running people and I headed to a local burger bar, ordered a basket of soft warm pretzels, bloody mary’s and burgers. It was heavenly.
Next up is the 15K Stockade-A-Thon in Schenectady, NY on November 9. I hope it rains…
Did you race this past weekend? Tell me about it!
Have you ever been a race spectator or volunteer?
Have you ever run, raced or done any other activity in the rain?
How do you feel about pace groups in races?