As if running 13.1 wasn’t hard enough, some of us runners need to find new and creative ways to make it harder. Why? The answer may come from the likes of race director Rick Konon who celebrated the 25th running of the Colchester “Tough As Nails” Half Marathon last Saturday. The more important question may be why have I chosen to run it seven times? The answer came from a woman who I met in the ladies room afterward who said “It always feels like such an accomplishment when it’s over.” Hell yeah it does.
Please excuse the change-up in the usual format this week as I recap the race for you. I would have done a separate post but the stomach bug I battled with last week had other plans. I’m just happy to be outside of a bathroom at this point. Now that you have that visual, you’re better prepared for this recap…
I have run a lot of half marathons in my almost 20 years of running and this one is by far the hilliest and, therefore, the toughest. Not only does it deserve the name “tough as nails” I also love the tagline.
And, just so everyone knows exactly where the hills are, the topography map is printed on the front of the shirt, modeled here by Vaughn:
It should also be noted that this was the very first time a race shirt was even sold. This is truly a no-frills race that was built from the ground up by the race director, Rick Konon. It started with about 15 members of the Hartford Track Club in 1993 and grew to over 600 last week! When I first started running this course in 2006 there were about 200 hearty New Englanders just looking to kill it for nothing more than bragging rights. I’m happy to say, not much has changed.
It’s always hard going into a race when the last time you crossed the finish line you had a course PR. There’s just no way of getting that out of my head so I didn’t try. It made me feel better when I realized that in that year I had run not one but two marathons (New Jersey and NYC) and PR’d in New Jersey (3:28).
This is me two years ago shoving my three minute PR in your face…
Regardless of PRs that would not be had, I went into the race with a mantra that has been working wonders for me. It’s a phrase I lifted from one of my racing heroes Rich Roll:
TRAIN WHERE YOU ARE
Not where I want to be, not where I wish I was (see above), not where I used to be, but right here and now, where I am.
This mindset worked for me on race day because I use it in my training. On a daily basis, whether I’m in the pool, on my bike or on the road, as soon as I feel my ego sliding into my head I shut it down with “train where you are!” It’s been working.
Wouldn’t you know that when I especially did not want to know my pace, they had someone standing with a stopwatch at mile 1 to loudly and clearly announce I was running a solid 8:00/min mile. Really? Of course I knew that my in PR year I was running almost a minute per mile faster but whatever…train where you are *insert eye roll*
I struggled in the early miles with my mind and ego but by mile 4-5 I was firmly on board with where I was and I was running strong. I tapped into how I felt and how hard I could push and still feel human at the finish line.
The hills came and went, but the most brutal part of this course is the steady two mile uphill climb to the finish. It’s never ending.
No matter how prepared I think I am for the final two miles of this race, I’m wrong.
My legs were tired, my ass was on fire and right hip flexor was literally screaming at me to please stop this nonsense.
I just kept pushing. I went as fast and as hard as I could, which was definitely not that hard or fast. (see below)
I mercifully rounded the final ascent toward the finish and that’s when the race director, Rick Konon himself was suddenly in my face screaming “ALLIE! Come on!” and we took off. He ran me into the finish line, faster than I thought was possible at that point. The crowd was cheering, Rick was yelling commands, and somehow my legs and lungs and heart just followed.
And then it was over. Thank f***ing God!
I can honestly and confidently say that I’m happy with the results. I ran a smart and strong race and felt really good afterward considering the mental and physical battle I went through. And, for perhaps the first time ever, I ran the tangents so well that my watch read almost exactly 13.1 miles at the finish! #thatneverhappens
According to the race data, I finished 8th in my age group 40-49 (but I don’t know how many women were in it?) 24th female (again, no clue how many women were out there?) and 108 overall. I’ll take it.
The proof in the recovery was my stomach felt great after my post-race meal (warm croissant, protein box and Blond Americano from Starbucks) and, after almost three hours in the car up to Vermont, I stepped out like I had been walking all my life and not like a 14 year-old in her first high heels. Winning.
Before I go I want to give a huge shout out to LINDA who introduced herself as a fan of my blog at the race! I was super embarrassed and then felt great, and then terrified as I thought about all the nonsense I write and confessions I make here but, she seemed to like me so thanks Linda! I hope you had a great race!
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Here’s hoping your week is not tough as nails but smooth and floating downhills.
Have you ever run a race this hilly? How many times?
Do you chase old PRs?
Would you race knowing there’s no bling at the finish?