Saturday, May 9, 2009

Big Lake Half Marathon

Here is the full story. This might be more race information than you will enjoy.

Last week, Meredith and I were geared up to head down to NH for our race. Then she injured herself at soccer on Wednesday night, and I started to feel sick with a cold and sore throat (again). I stayed home on Thursday so I could go to the doctor and get a strep test, and slept most of the day. Meredith was in pain and limping but still planned to run.

On Friday after school, we decided that even though we weren't in top shape, we would head down to NH. My doctor called me minutes before we were leaving to tell me that my strep test had indeed come back positive. So, before heading out of town, we stopped at Rite Aid where I filled an antibiotic prescription and Meredith bought a donut-shaped pillow so that she could ride in the car more comfortably.

We were not exactly heading off in the blaze of glory we had anticipated.

The four hour drive was filled with optimism and banter, as usual with us, and we had a great dinner after arriving in Concord.

After checking into the hotel, Meredith started to come to terms with the fact that it wasn't going to work for her to try to run. She hadn't slept well since the injury happened, and the impact of running was way too painful and impossible. She made the very depressing decision to stay behind.

5:45 am on Saturday morning, with a very heavy heart, I left my bruised, sad, and sleeping friend in the hotel and found my way to Lake Winnepesauke to the start of the race.

Getting my bib # and t-shirt was uneventful and easy. The weather (after all my fretting) was perfect: Cool, partly cloudy, no rain in the forecast. My general impression at race registrations is always the same. What am I doing here surrounded by all these athletes? I still feel strangely like I don't belong in this company. Most everyone is wearing a t-shirt that boasts another big race they have completed and stretching out with a real sense of purpose. I arrived at the starting line with about 45 minutes to wait and watched all the other participants running back and forth on the road. I wanted to make an announcement to everyone: You are about to run 13 miles! Don't you think you should rest?


The Big Lake Half Marathon was a quirky little race. There were about 1000 runners, and the race had a few "big race" features, but in most ways felt small and quaint, and a little bit weird.

For example, at the starting line, the race director yelled out:
On your mark. Get set. Go.

I laughed out loud and started running. Really? Not even a bull horn?

I was pleasantly surprised to be pretty much in the pack for the whole race, always surrounded by people and able to listen to other people's conversations to keep me entertained.

Here is a photo I stole off a local paper's website taken during mile 1.

Miles 1-3 were uneventful, pretty views of the lake. At mile 4 there was a sign on the road that said: "Scenic Overlook 1 mile ahead." I should have realized what that meant: Uphill. Uphill. Uphill.

It was at this very crucial span in the race when I fell into step with two women, sisters, running together, who were very friendly and chatty, and also, a little bit faster than my usual pace. I stuck with them for the next 3 miles which totally saved me. Those are the hardest miles of the race (up hill all the way and not yet the half way point). They chatted me up all the way to mile 7, and put me ahead of what I had even hoped for in terms of my pace. When they stopped to stretch, I carried on by myself, but by then, I was more than half way there.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all the New Hampshire locals who watched the race from their front porches, awkwardly staring without any change in facial expression whatsoever. One elderly woman in a lawn chair clapped very slowly as we ran past. Another woman had set up a huge stereo on her driveway blaring country music, but she sat alone on her porch reading a magazine as we ran past. It was just nutty.

I was aiming to beat my last half marathon time of 2:30, and the clocks at each mile marker let me know I was doing well. At each mile, I spent a minute or two doing math in my head so I knew what pace I had to maintain to meet my goal.

The course was definitely hilly. After that gradual climb up to mile 7, there were a lot of ups and downs that were hard on the quads. It was the hilliest run I've done yet, never really flat, always rolling. But pretty! And breezy! And a ton of water and gatorade stops.

At mile 11 it started to drizzle a little bit, but that felt good. I was getting sore and tired and was really ready to stop. Mile 12 was a relief to see, but again, my hips were aching and my right foot was not happy at all. Mile 13. Thank God. I was hurting and I guess it showed; the photographer at the final turn into the finish line reminded me to smile.


I crossed the finish line, proud of the time on that clock, got my medal, and hobbled over to the water table. And then (wait for it! you saw this coming!) I sat on the grass and cried a good ol' cry. (If you don't remember, I always cry after races... this was just a slightly delayed reaction).

I cried for my feet and my hips, and for happiness that it was over, but mostly, I cried for my running partner Meredith and the hole I felt in her absence.

I also cried because the post race food was (I am NOT exaggerating) a tablespoon of granola and a tablespoon of yogurt in a little plastic cup. I thought that I deserved a large pizza, but at least a bagel and a banana, people.

The last thing I will say is that even though I have now done this 3 times, and my time is getting better each time, I still find running 13 miles to be very hard. I thought maybe that by this point I'd cross the finish line thinking "that wasn't so bad!" but I didn't really feel that way. The difference has been that the pain has come later in each race. My first, I was miserable by mile 8. My 2nd, I felt pretty good until mile 11. This race, I wasn't REALLY hurting until 12.5, so that's progress. The thing is, the thought of running 13.1 MORE miles is incredibly daunting to me, so I have to do some soul searching before I commit to training for a whole marathon.

But in the meantime,
good job, you two.


Michelle said...

You totally rock! I'm so proud of you and even more excited to run with you in September!! Mostly I'm excited to know that I will be able to keep up with you and run with you the whole way!

Just think... it was THAT hilly and you didn't hurt till 12.5 and you improved your time by 9minutes!! That's so totally cool!

Happy Mother's Day!

Paige said...

Em, you inspire me!! I can't wait until September!

Adrienne said...

i think i was moving my legs a little while reading your race a sleeping dog having a running dream. fantastic to share the experience with you (and the way you write it i really do feel like a part of it). tears when you wrote about the end of the race. miss you like crazy; happy mother's day to a mom who is just the most! talk this week?

Baute Family said...

You are woman !!!!!!!!!! YOU are amazing...... good job Em. I love you!

Nancy said...

You ARE a real athlete, Emilie! Real athletes run even with strep throat (much to their mother's chagrin). Real athletes do the math in their head at every mile. Real athletes thank their bodies. Real athletes improve their time even though things didn't go quite as planned. Real athletes are role models to women and girls everywhere.
You're already strong. Now, be proud!

Lisa said...

Ditto on what Nancy said! nicely put. Great job, Emilie!!

Carver Fam said...

Oh, my friend. You rock. Full on, head thrashing, guitar playing with blasting amps. You are my inspiration. Good work.

SNW said...

I've been spending all my time hiking and kayaking and at the gym, and I'm ready to come out of running retirement. I think I will go for the June 20th 5k in Rockport. If you have any training plans typed out, you send 'em my way!!?? :) xo

Tiercy said...

Great job Emilie!! I am so sorry that you had to run without your friend. I hope you feel better soon.

Frederique said...

Way to go Em!!!

Donna said...

Oh well done Emilie! I LOVED reading that. You are such an inspiration for me. I doubt I will ever do a 13 mile run but reading about your running efforts has inspired me to actually get out there and try it, so thank you!

Oh I just wish I could hug you right now!!