I showed up to this race with my game face on. I had decided in my mind that there was absolutely no way I wasn’t going to PR. I was physically strong, I was mentally ready. All that was left was hoping the running stars aligned as far as weather, course, and unforeseen things like stomach issues, etc.
But let’s back up. The night before I drove down to Mass to stay with the awesome Colleen Fit Bee, who lives about 20 minutes from the start (I myself, about 2 hours without traffic). She was a wonderful hostess. I slept well the night before the race. I ate my pre-race breakfast (always a Chocolate Mint Cliff Builder’s bar and an energy drink. Hey, it works for me). We drove out to Quincy High School to pick up our bibs (small race, just over 1400 finishers), use indoor, flushing bathrooms (score!) and wait around in the heated gym/cafeteria. It was a little chilly and windy at the start, but the sun was out.
Oddly, I never felt nervous before the race. I was just ready to run in every sense of the word.
The horn sounded marking the start of the race, and run is exactly what I did.
mile 1 – 8:12
mile 2 – 7:36
mile 3 – 7:46
mile 4 -7:40
The first mile was my slowest as I settled into my pace and out from behind some slower runners. Mile 2 & 3 were hard. They are almost always the hardest miles of any distance race for me, as my body is shocked into the idea that yeah, we are going for a long run. I had gone into this race hoping for a 1:49:00, an average pace of 8:18. But a pace in the mid 7’s felt alright, so I stuck with it. I didn’t feel like I was overreaching, my breathing was steady and my legs felt good, but I did worry if I was going out too fast. Around mile 4 I saw Colleen and told her I was trying to bank as much time as I could.
mile 5 – 7:37
mile 6 – 7:55
mile 7 – 7:40
mile 8 – 7:37
The course was absolutely BEAUTIFUL. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and the route went right along the ocean. I am a surfer girl through and through, but there is something so different about the New England coastline. But beauty aside, one of the pitfalls of running right next to the shore is the headwind. Around mile 5 we hit a huge hill (the first real hill) in a small neighborhood, did a complete turn around, went back down another hill, and bam, the headwinds hit. It was at this point the voices started to creep in. You know, the “voices” that say things like “this sucks. This is actually really hard. You should slow down so you don’t completely die. It’s not your fault there are headwinds. It just wasn’t meant to be today…”
mile 10 – 7:49
mile 11 – 8:02
mile 12 – 8:00
mile 13 – 7:14
But sneaky Quincy half marathon saved all of the hills for the last 1/3 of the race.
My legs burned on those darn hills. I did my best to maintain whatever kind of pace I could, and was CERTAIN to catch up with the down hills. God didn’t give me these long legs to shuffle down hills, I hammered down them as fast as I could. It was around mile 10 that I started doing the math. You know, if I run _____ pace for the next 3.1 miles I can finish in x:xx:xx. Anyone who has tried to do math at this point of a race knows it’s NOT easy. Something about the blood being diverted from your brain to your legs, lungs, and heart and converting pace to overall finishing minutes/seconds…needless to say it’s not easy, but it is certainly distracting.
I dug deep. I thought of all of the things the past few days, weeks, months, year that have hurt me, and I thought of how much easier this physical pain was. Heck, I welcomed it. I thought of how hard I have been training in the gym, how much stronger I have become. I am not weak. I would not give up. I rounded a corner to see one of the best surprises ever: a downhill to the finish line. I put everything I had left into my legs and I ran, hard. There was one point, maybe 100 yards from the finish, where I thought, I’m either going to pass out right here or I am going to finish strong. Adrenaline took over, and I crossed the finish line.
11 minute PR. 1:40:24. And you know what my first thought was? If I didn’t take that extra water break to fiddle with my GPS, I could have had a 1:39.
Is there no cure for this madness?
No really, I was ecstatic. Proud. Not just for my finishing time, but for the fact that I never once gave up on myself, something I used to do all too often.
I finally found some of my friends only to be bummed to find out they both took DNF’s. Proud of them for listening to their bodies though, so they could run another day and not sustain any serious injuries. And proud of another for setting a PR herself 🙂
So there you go. Quincy in a nutshell. Would I run this race again? Absolutely. Great course, beautiful town, awesome town/spectator support, great organization.