Hey, guys! Here I go again with the delayed post. There’s something about weekend race-cations that throw me completely out of whack for a few days afterwards….
Anyways, Todd and I (once again) decided to go on a last-minute, impromptu trip for a race this past weekend, and this time it was for the ING Hartford Half Marathon!
We arrived in Connecticut in the afternoon on Friday for the expo, which I must say, was far superior to the expo we had just experienced in Providence. There were some great vendors, including some new favorites, Ola Granola and Kings Hawaiian (their rolls are SO good), and of course I spent just a teensy bit too long at the official merchandise booth.
Afterwards, we spent some time at the Connecticut Science Center, which stayed open late for the holiday weekend. I’ve frequented the Liberty Science Center here in New Jersey, and it’s comparable, but this was a lot of fun!
I love museums where you’re encouraged to play with things, not gonna lie.
Also, I sort of have a thing for dinosaurs…so, it was perfect. Haha.
Then we scarfed down some pizza at a Pietro’s Pizza nearby, and headed back, since the race was scheduled to start at 8am the next morning.
We stayed at an Extended Stay America this time; again, a little bit outside of the actual downtown area where the race was being held, but we didn’t have any issues getting to the starting line. There was free parking for runners at the Aetna building, which was appreciated, and conveniently located right next to a Dunkin’ Donuts which had no line for coffee and a LONG line for bathrooms. Anything to avoid a port-a-potty, haha.
It was a really beautiful morning — nice and cool, just the way I like it. I was excited to sport the new shirt I purchased at the expo — this year marked the race’s 20th anniversary! — but I knew I’d end up regretting wearing a long-sleeved, black shirt when the temperatures warmed up in the later half of the race (fortunately, it wasn’t too bad).
My other concern? My knees have been bothering me a little bit lately. I recently replaced my running sneakers (my old ones were, well…old) in the hopes that that might have been the issue, but I’m guessing it’s probably from my increased mileage for the Dopey Challenge. I’m in the thick of my Hal Higdon training plan now, and even though I regularly switch days around and don’t follow it exactly, I have been getting in all of the mileage scheduled for each week. And it’s not for the faint of heart, let me tell you that much.
So, needless to say, I wasn’t setting any time goals for this race. Does it bug me that my PR (2:03) is STILL from my very first (non-Disney) half marathon way back in April? Yes. But I know that no matter what the clock says, I AM improving. The 13.1 mile distance is no longer even remotely intimidating to me, and I swear, every race seems to fly by more and more quickly. I really do feel stronger after each finish line I cross, regardless of what happens on the course that might prevent me from achieving my optimal time goal.
This time, by the way, it was my stomach. Never a dull moment for me, I swear. I started the race feeling pretty great; my knees, while a little bit achy, weren’t bothering me too much. Once again, I lost Todd, who prefers a conservative start, but I figured he’d catch up with me somewhere around the halfway point.
Unfortunately, it was right around mile 5 when I HAD to make a pit-stop; I never, ever stop for bathroom breaks during races (except at Disney), but I had to pee and it had gotten all kinds of uncomfortable for me, so there was no way I was going to make it 13.1 miles. Then I was riddled with some cramping for the rest of the race; nothing too serious, but still enough to force me to slow down my pace.
What’s really funny? Todd did see me on the course. Going into the port-a-potty. Haha. So we never actually got to run together during this race, which kind of sucked, but I wouldn’t want to hold him back anyway. It wasn’t my day, but he, once again, beat his previous time, so I was thrilled for him! (And jealous, since he now has officially beaten my PR…not cool, man).
The race did have a few hills (nothing like what we had to climb in Providence, though), but it was overall a pretty good course — we ran through a really nice park and the finish line through the arch was exciting. Also, some folks from ING handed out obnoxious orange sunglasses somewhere around mile 9, so I, of course, had to add those to my race-day “costume,” haha (still waiting on race photos).
Our official times were 2:07:38 and 2:02:11. Not my best performance, but also not my worst, so I’ll take it!
The bottom line is that in addition to all of these half marathons we’ve been running “just for fun,” I’m also attempting to squeeze in my increasingly longer runs for Dopey…so I just ran 15 miles last weekend, and now have a 16-miler hanging over my head. My ultimate goal is to cross that marathon finish line in January in one piece, so if that means that I can’t break any world records in my races this fall, then so be it.
Speaking of which, I have some super exciting news to share. As it turns out, I will not be completely alone during my 48.6 mile journey this January. We managed to snag a spot for Todd to run the sold-out half marathon through Marathon Tours (we also booked our stay at the All-Star Sports Resort) and I am so ridiculously excited! Not only will we get to experience Walt Disney World for the first time together, but it really is such a relief that I’m going to have him there for the first part of the weekend. I’ll need all the support I can get (I’m also hoping my sister will be able to get the time off work to be in my “ChEAR Squad” again for the weekend), and I know it’s going to be such a blast running through the parks together! And hopefully in matching costumes.
The other good news? Since this race was part of the Hartford Marathon — which, by the way, made me feel a bit inadequate, “only” running 13.1 miles that morning! — I found myself getting really swept up in the excitement of it all. You know, the whole “running a marathon” thing, I mean. After we crossed the finish line and got our (rather colorful!) medals, swag (a water bottle and some other goodies), and food, which included grilled cheese, tomato soup, and apple crisp in addition to the usual bagels and bananas — not too shabby! — we spent some time in the park perusing the post-race vendors.
It was a lot of fun; definitely a great way to prolong the race excitement a bit.
More importantly, we watched the marathoners come in for quite awhile, and I found myself getting so unbelievably pumped for my first marathon. I know I have many more weeks of hard training ahead of me, but it was really the first time that I felt truly READY to take on this challenge.
Granted, I’m still nervous about the fact that I’m taking a leap of faith and running 26.2 miles for the first time in the same weekend as a 5k…and a 10k…and a half marathon, but that overwhelming fear that I CAN’T do it has really started to subside. Successfully tackling my longest run to date last weekend certainly helped, but also seeing so many runners cross that marathon finish line this past weekend was super inspiring to me. There were runners of all ages and shapes and sizes, and I knew just how hard each of them had worked to get to that finish line…and I know that I CAN do this, too.
Next up is what I hope will be fantastic training for Dopey — the Runner’s World Hat Trick! I’ll be running the 5k and 10k (pretty much back-to-back) on Saturday, and then the half marathon on Sunday.
We’ve also signed up for a ton of seminars — including one on how NOT to get injured, so I’m definitely looking forward to that — and the “Dinner with the Editors” on Saturday night. This is all especially meaningful for me because, as many of you may know, I’m a freelance magazine writer…and Runner’s World is absolutely and 100 percent my “dream” magazine to break into right now!
When did you know that you were READY to train for a marathon?
Anyone else going to be tackling the Runner’s World races this weekend?