Editor’s note: I wrote most of this post on the plane ride to California mere hours after my race, and it turned out a bit longer than I intended. Here’s a summary. I ran 13.1 miles in 1:42:42, a personal best and more than ten minutes better than my previous fastest. The race had its up and down moments, starting with a 44:00-ish 10K split before I unexpectedly ran out of gas in the last four miles. While I’m not disappointed with my results, I had hoped for a little better, and I have a decent idea where to go from here, which is good because the racing season has now officially started.
The New Bedford half marathon and I have unfinished business. Still.
I first ran this race two years ago, and I had a really tough blood sugar day, going hypo for the last five miles or so. Today was better, and there are whole sections of the course I remember for the first time. (Those were the parts I walked in a stupor back in 2011.) In fact, my 1:42:42 time today was my best ever at this distance. It’s just that my race was very uneven.
So what happened? First, here’s a little story.
Some of you probably noticed that I haven’t written much here recently. There are a lot of reasons—I’m definitely prone to going through periods of intense activity followed by droughts in many areas—but this time two factors stand out. First, I’m trying to get more stuff done during my days: at work, around the house, on the bike, on the sofa with a book in hand, with my head fast-asleep on a pillow, etc. Last triathlon season I was pretty sure that I didn’t help out enough with the housework, and it caused me a good deal of anxiety. This year, I’m trying to build up a reserve of goodwill (and good habits) that will get me through to October. Life is choices, and in an effort to get all of my stuff done, the dozen-or-so dispatches that I wanted to post here kinda shuffled to the bottom of the list.
But perhaps an even bigger reason for being quiet here is that I really only had one thing I wanted to talk about, and it seemed a bit neurotic to say, over and over, “Hey y’all, there’s this race I’m doing on Saint Patrick’s Day, and I’ve never been more unsure about how an event is going to turn out in my life . . . or even how I should approach it.” Beyond neurotic. Perhaps even a bit needy and insecure. But there it is: I spent most of the last 2-3 months thinking about today’s race and not wanting to talk about it.
Let’s head back toward the main part of our story.
It’s been a snowy, snowy winter. Last year, when I trained for Around the Bay, we had almost no snow all winter. Finding a place to train was so simple; just head up the bone-dry trail and out onto the suburban roads. This winter started like last year, but after Christmas all frozen hell broke loose. Before the New Year I was already doing speedwork on a snow-covered track or on the treadmill in the basement. I was moving my long run day around to get it in before the next snowstorm hit.
Then came January. And February. And early March. It snowed and snowed but never really melted—mostly because it was ridiculously cold. When the snow wasn’t too icy or rotten, I would put some miles in on the snowy trails; otherwise I did snowy loops and dodged snowplows on the state highway. Not only were these outings difficult, they kinda sapped my confidence.
I built my training plan around the 21:11 5K I ran last September to close out the season. That plan, which seemed aggressive to me, relied on a fairly normal set of distances each week run at some rather aggressive times: a 4-mile tempo run at 7:05/mile (4:24/km) pace, 4x1600m in 6:48 (4:13) each, 13 miles at 8:30 (5:17) pace. Ironically, I didn’t have much trouble hitting my marks at the shorter, more intense distances. But over the snowy, slushy, or icy roads, I quickly learned that I was going too hard on the early parts before getting to the dry roads, where I was a bit worn out. (I was very well-hydrated though, since I carried and drank lots of water.) Having one difficult long run after another kinda dragged me down and left me wondering if I had peaked too early in the season or if I would be capable of transferring my track speed to the roads over longer distances. Would I be able to run 13.1 miles at the 7:08/mile pace my plan said I could do?
Today proved that the answer was, in a word, No.
There was no real snow accumulation in the forecast for the week before the race—which of course didn’t stop us from getting a half-inch overnight on Friday—and the bike/run path taunted me by being invitingly snow-free for the first Sunday since the middle of January.
On the other hand, it was still a chilly 30F (-1C) when we left the house race morning. What to wear . . . Pants? Probably a good idea. Jacket? Probably not necessary, although I did put on a base layer below my long-sleeve shirt. By the time I was done with my warm-up, I knew I should have opted for shorts and short-sleeves. It was perfect running weather. (Although not perfect spectating temperatures. Poor Lisa.)
I got a good luck kiss from my sweetheart, settled myself into the starting corral by the 8:00/mile (4:58/km) sign, and tested my blood glucose during the national anthem. 252 mg/dL (14 mmol/L). My best efforts at having a quality BG race were derailed around 7:30PM Saturday by a low that caused a high rebound and an early morning bolus, a pre-run snack, and an 11AM race start that had me wondering how much to eat for breakfast and what insulin-on-board was appropriate for my high. I decided that the 0.8 units IOB was probably okay, but my nutrition plan of eating every 30 minutes needed modification. Basically, I was going to be a bit hungry.
The first half of the race were good. Everyone around me was running decidedly faster than I was, and I felt no qualms about watching a stream of people slowly run past me through the first few miles. I was watching my pace closely, so I wasn’t surprised to see a 6:45 show up after the first mile. By the third mile I was cruising along at 7:30/mile (4:40/km), which had been my plan coming into the race: run slower than the “official” plan called for and hope for a negative split, running the second half stronger than the first.
My (unofficial) 10K split was a new personal best just upward of 44:00. I was feeling good. A run at this pace is never easy, but it didn’t feel bad.
Then around the ninth mile, when we got to the seawall, I hit the wall. I had been battling a side stitch that felt like a collapsed lung—I imagine—for the last couple miles so I decided to walk for a minute to catch my breath and check my BGs: 152 (8.4). Much better than before. Knowing that I didn’t have low or high blood sugar gave me a bit of a second wind. The big hill for the last mile was cruel—just like last time—but the crowds were huge and so supportive.
I was so happy with my time and to be done. All things considered, it was a good race: a solid, relaxed 10K followed by a tough part that I pushed through leading to a PR. I told Lisa that it’s good that I signed up for the Baystate Marathon (in mid-October) on Friday rather than waiting until afterward, because I’m not sure I would do it if I hadn’t. But that was pre-shower. It’s amazing what some hot water and soap will do for your point-of-view.
Between now and my first marathon there’s a lot of running and swim/bike/running to do. I have new training paces and a clear need to work on hills. (I think trail running will help with pacing and strength more than anything, not to mention being lots of fun! :^) And . . . I wonder how close to 1:42 I can get during a half-Ironman. I’ll also come back to New Bedford someday to get the satisfaction I deserve.
Now if only spring would get here.