Monday, October 15, 2012

Paine to Pain Trail Half Marathon

Yesterday's race was my first running race in quite a while and I'm happy to report that it brought back my running mojo. I had a nice long "taper" for this race thanks to a bad chest cold and then my post-Lasik forced week off. P2P was my first race with better-than-perfect vision and I have to say that it made a difference. Wow, having clear vision and not worrying about having a contact lens malfunction or tripping with my glasses was spectacular. I ran last Thursday night after about 12 days off (torture) and felt absolutely fantastic, so I felt pretty good about my prospects for the race. I didn't have great expectations for my time because I still had a lingering cough and had been sick for a while, but I told myself I'd be happy with a time under 2:00, worst case scenario 2:05. I didn't know what to expect from the course so I figured I'd roll with it. I had no other plan, I couldn't even remember what pace a 2:00 half was, but I couldn't see my splits anyway.
Race day was overcast with a tiny bit of sprinkling rain at the start, but perfect temps in the high 50's. Lots of folks seemed to be having the annual season change confusion and overdressed. There were a lot of very sweaty folks in long sleeves on the course.
I was in the first wave of 4 waves and was really happy to be starting ahead instead of having to do a lot of passing on the trails. The race was perfectly organized, it started right on time and went off without a hitch. The start was on the road on a mighty uphill along a quiet street in New Rochelle and turned into the trails after several minutes. After making my way around a few stumbling folks with weak ankles, I fell into a steady pace with a couple of nearby guys who seemed to be discussing a 2:00 finish. "Perfect!", I thought. One guy had a P2P shirt from another year and seemed to have nice trail running skill so I decided he was the guy to follow. We made some small talk with a local cross country coach who joined us for a while after mile 4 until he stopped for a pee break. Lucky bastard. I had to pee from the start to the finish. I faced the ugly old visitor, self doubt, at about mile 5 until I saw another woman ahead and realized I was moving up on the couple of women who passed me at the start. Hmm. For the most part I was then only woman on any given stretch, and my running buddies made note of it around mile 7. I tried to push the thought of catching more women out of my mind and just focus on running and pushing through the hills and rocks, but each time I saw a ponytail ahead, it was like she had a bullseye on her back. I recognized almost all of the women I "killed" (passed) from earlier in the race, but not all of them. I had no idea where I stood in my age group or overall, but the thoughts motivated me late in the race. I stayed with my guy friends along the way, noting that my comments to women I was passing went unreturned. "Nice job" was met with silence. Whatever, bitches. :) To me, that is just fuel to make me pass you and never give you the chance to catch up.
So the race went along, the trails got nicer and I mentally tied myself to an Aussie (I didn't know he was an Aussie until we talked post-race) to get through miles 9-12ish ,except when he dropped his gu before the 10 mi water stop and turned back for it. The last mile or two (or 3, the details are fuzzy) I caught and passed a few guys that I'd been behind at the very start of the race and I was feeling really strong again. It was some sort of third wind. I gave one guy encouragement at about 12.5mi because he was walking and he started running next to me. He thanked me after the race for the boost, I am always happy to return that favor because people have done it for me when I'm struggling.
The final stretch of the trail was really nice as we got close to New Rochelle High School and we could hear the cheerleaders chanting and encouraging the runners as they approached the track. The finish was half of a lap of the track, something I do not particularly enjoy. Instead of looking around for the finish, I put my head down and watched the ground in front of me until the final straightaway where I looked up and sprinted for the line. As I crossed, the clock read something like 1:48:0X and I was thrilled. The results have me in under that in 1:47:57. I couldn't be happier considering my goal time was under 2 hours!
I was really happy when I got home and looked at my Garmin data. I ran a negative split with the last 4 miles under 8:00. Wow. I ran a really steady race despite not being able to see my splits along the way AT ALL and despite the varied terrain. Garmin says we gained and lost 2,000+ ft on the course which is nothing to snuff at around here.
In the end I walked away with a giant beer mug for 3rd place in my age group, which was extended to 16-29! I'm lucky there were no 19 year old Iona College XC runners out there to kick my butt. My time was good enough for 14th female overall.

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