Monday, 1 September 2008

Race Report: Swanzey Covered Bridges Half Marathon

Saturday night, I double-checked the alarm clock, but I needn’t have bothered. The digital clock didn’t wake me up, the furry one did.

Furry alarm clock

At 5:30 am. By swatting my face. The Swanzey Covered Bridges Half Marathon wasn't set to start until 9 am and we only had a thirty minute drive to get there, but I was awake at 5:30. I paid the furball back by putting him in a headlock and smothering his head in kisses. Cats, they’re so easy to torture.

Though lacking some sleep, I woke up on race day to the pleasant absence of knee pain. I guess it was a mental thing. However, I was experiencing full on female crampage. Although I know it was a no-no, I popped some pain relievers, but I made sure the dosage was small, hoping it would run its course by start time.

On the drive to the race, we encountered a lot of fog. It would have been great to run in it. My imagination would have been in overdrive from all the horror movies I’ve watched probably resulting in a pretty good pace for the race. Sadly, it cleared by race time and in its place was a bright blue sky with virtually no clouds. I could have done with some more clouds, but at least most of the course was lined with trees which cast some decent shade.

The course was advertised as flat. The New Hampshirite concept of flat ground is similar to the Venetian concept of a straight road*: both are skewed. And by skewed, I mean really, really wrong. Most of the race course was along country roads with rolling hills. I should have known a flat course was too good to be true. This is my home state after all.

The race began a short distance down the road from the local high school. The field of runners was small, probably 300 tops, so no timing corrals or anything. As in London, I was on my own for pacing, which pretty much meant I was doomed from the start since I can’t pace myself worth a damn.

I ran the first mile in 10:08. Basically, way too fast for a slow-poke like me. The pace band I’d made showed the splits for two separate finishing times, 2:15 and 2:30. The first was the proposed finish time for the training program I used, the second was the latest time at which I wanted to finish. As I passed each mile marker, I checked to see which time I was closer to. For the first part of the race, I was much closer to the 2:15 pace times, but that changed around mile 9.

Around mile 6 I realized I hadn’t experienced any female cramps so far in the race. Well, that went to pot at mile 9 when they returned in force. Accompanying them was a heavy feeling in my legs and a desperate need to empty my bladder. The promised port-a-potties at the halfway point never materialized, unless by port-a-potty they meant the woods lining the highway. Between miles 10 and 11, I had reached decision time – pee my pants or take a detour into the woods. I smartly chose the latter, though it ended up adding about a minute to my time. Suckage.

Miles 10 to 13 basically just kicked my butt. I was super tired and my pace had slowed considerably. For forty awful minutes, I had to battle with my weaker self to not give in and walk. It sucked. I tried to distract myself from the constant hills by noticing how many men I was chicking or focusing on the songs playing on my ipod. I succeeded and kept on running, but it was rough going. I hate to admit it, but Viper was right - it is one thing to be able to run the distance, but another to race it.

I crossed the finish at 2:26:13, which equates to an 11:10 pace. Not bad with all those hills and I still made it in under 2:30, so I have no real complaints. My mom was waiting near the end, waving madly and taking photos. She was pleased as punch and so was I, especially since I knew I had definitely earned a slice of the lemon cake with vanilla frosting (my favorite kind of cake) that was waiting for us at home. We also got to enjoy the post-race bbq of burgers and roasted corn. Yum.

Midway through eating I took the picture, hence the burger’s state. And yes, I know I’m weird for eating around the burger first.

While we were munching away on our lunches, the race organizers held the awards ceremony. The first two finishers in the under 19 men’s category were obviously high school cross country runners, as the announcer mentioned their coach was making them run an additional 7 miles later that day. Poor bastards. The winner of the women’s 50 to 59 category (incidentally, my mom’s age group, but she’s not a runner) looked barely older than myself and she finished in about 1:45. Talk about a blow to the ego. Both my mother’s and mine.

Though my knees didn’t hurt at all before, during or right after the race, they did need to be iced that evening, but I think that was more the result of my nap on the couch that afternoon. And by couch, I mean dinky little loveseat. I’m not tall by any means, but I still woke up to find myself in a contorted and very uncomfortable position. I need to not do that again.

This morning I awoke to sore quads. It’s been interesting walking down stairs, but otherwise it hasn’t been too bad. I should be able to get in a short run before I leave for England on Thursday. That makes me happy.

Oh, and guess what else I’m happy about? My dry spell has ended! No not that one. This one.

You complete me.

It’s not a work of art, but I love it anyway. Just like a mother who’s given birth to an ugly child, but only sees its beauty. [Editor’s note: Is it just me or do all newborn babies look like Winston Churchill?] I foresee the shirt being rotated into my cold-weather pajama wardrobe. It’ll be so nice to fall asleep wrapped in a shirt reminding me of such an amazing personal accomplishment. Ten months ago I couldn’t run for more than 30 seconds without getting winded and now I can run 13 consecutive miles. It still boggles the mind. I wonder if the day will ever come when I’m no longer surprised by it all. Maybe, but I don’t see it happening anytime soon.

One more thing before I end this already long post... I know this may sound overly sentimental, but I just wanted to thank you all for your advice, support and understanding. There aren’t many people in my real life who are really interested in running, so I don’t get to talk about it much except for here on the blog. My family and friends are all very proud of me for running and tell me so, but it is also quite obvious that they don’t understand my dedication to it. Having already picked a career path which most of them never fathomed or don’t even understand (for the hundredth time, no, I don’t dig up dinosaur bones!), I’ve done it again with my running habit. I’m a total freak to them, but they continue to love me anyway. So thank you for being my running outlet. You make the lives of the people in my real life a lot easier.

Blah! Okay, enough sappy crap. Hope you all had a great holiday weekend.

* There are no straight roads in Venice and most streets weren’t signed when I was there so being told to ‘go straight on this street’ was pointless when I encountered a fork in the road every three seconds.


Running Knitter said...

Yay! You did it! Congrats! You get bonus points for running with the cramps. Don't worry to much about reaching your goal time - there is always a next time, right? Awesome job!

Theresa said...

Woohoo! Congratulations! Triumph over hills even! Well done!

And cute kitty! Is it weird that I'm jealous you had a cat for an alarm clock?

Marcy said...

GIRL YOU DID AWESOME!! WHOOOOOO HOOOOOO!! CONGRATS!! Anyone who has to race during that TMO should get a good 5-8 minute lop off the time. So really your looking at 2:18 ;-)

And DANG girl, it's about time you got yourself a race t-shirt LOL.

Now when are you going to beat out Oprah in the marathon? ;-)

MCM Mama said...

WTG on the race! That's a great time for having to deal with hills and cramps. The half marathon I did in June had rolling hills and about killed me. At least it'll be easier to PR on your next one. :o)

Oh, and when I complained about sore quads and stairs to a runner friend this weekend, he recommended walking down backwards. I'll be filing that tidbit away for when I finish my marathon LOL>

Merry said...

Virtual high-five

I am very proud of you!

Marci said...

Congratulations, you did great. The long sleeve cotton is my fav race shirt, they are perfect swank for post/pre race. Enjoy your cake, you earned it!

MizFit said...

IMPRESSIVE (and interesting. yes I mean the burger. Im heading out to a bbq in a but and may have to try that :))

can I say Im a tad envious of your life?


I am :)

Kevin said...

Congrats on a great race.

BeachRunner said...

Way to go, you did an awesome job. Nice plate-o-food pic.

Lily on the Road said...

Okay, now you've made me cry....

AWESOME JOB were flying!!
Good for you!!!!! Your first Half...WOOO HOOO! your a Wooo Hooo now, whether you want to be or NOT!

I'm soooo excited and yes, your new shirt will travel through time with you!!! You ARE AMAZING!!

Way to GO!!!!

Lisa Slow-n-Steady said...


I hope my knee pain magically disappears before my HM next weekend. Did you do anything special to get it to go away?

Swimfan13 said...

Congrats! AWESOME!!!!!

chia said...

Great job!!! Sounds like a fantastic first go at it!! So what's next ;-)?!?!

RazZDoodle said...

You rock the freakin' world! Your "sappy" paragraph sounds very familiar to something that I would write. Preach on, Sister X!

Congrats again!

Jenn N Butter said...

I have always been the black sheep of my fam and so has Whit with his! I totally understand.

Congrats on the half!


tfh said...

Great race! Obviously the woman in the 50-59 category had an enormous advantage over you (menopause).

I hope you're wearing that shirt RIGHT NOW.

Viper said...

You did great! I won't even tell you I told you so. Congrats on the finish and your first race shirt.

That post race chow looks good!

So, are you ready to get started on that marathon training?

Roisin said...

1. Congratulations!!!!!!!!!!!!

2. I eat around the outside of the burger first, too. Nothin' wrong with that!

Meg said...

Congratulations! That's awesome. I didn't know you went zero-to-half in 10 months - that's pretty incredible, especially without a training group! Congrats on fighting through those last few miles without walking, that's a huge mental accomplishment too.

Your cat looks adorable. I love the "I'm up and want to play so now you have to wake up" alarm. :)

Laura said...

Congratulations!!!! And yay for taking a picture of the yummy-looking post-race food... that is my main motivation for running so fast to get to the finish!

Nitmos said...

Congratulations Xenia! And, yes, it will get easier over time. Keep at it. You've come really far in a short amount of time. Before long, you'll be knocking off 10 milers every weekend and a half marathon? Pfft, you'll be able to sleep walk it! Great job.

The Laminator said...

Damn, I'm always late to the party!

Congrats, Xenia. Awesome race report. I love the post-race food looks delish even when I've just eaten!

I was just thinking the other day as I was making out my fall marathon plans how my goal of running a 3:05 marathon makes me such a freak that I should probably just keep it to myself. And then I realize that the rest of the people who read my blog are probably just as freaky as I am, so I wasn't afraid to share!

Non-Runner Nancy said...

Nice going, Girlie. You are doing so awesome. I can't believe you've only been running for a few months. I had no idea. I'm so proud of you. I know what you mean about the real lifers not being that into the running. I love my blog buddies and miss you guys dearly when I get busy.

I'd take 11:10 HM any day. :D