Saturday, September 17, 2011

Race Report: MDI Half Marathon 2011

This is me coming through the finish line chute.  I look like I was suffering and working really hard.  I guess I was focused on the end, and I forgot to smile.  This photo does not actually capture anything about my race today.  I had an amazing day and am really excited to write this race report. 

But can we back up for a second?  Let's quickly recap the previous races of 2011.
Mid-Winter Classic, Cape Elizabeth in February:  Cancelled (twice) due to snow and ice.
Race the Runways Half Marathon, Brunswick in April:  Day after a huge snow storm, and very cold with biting wind.
Sugarloaf Marathon (too sick).  Sugarloaf 15K in May:  Pouring rain and cold
Vermont City Marathon, Burlington, May:  High heat and humidity.  Extreme weather warnings throughout the course.
Danskin Triathlon, Webster, MA, July:  High heat and humidity plus a trip to the ER.
Beach to Beacon, Cape Elizabeth, August:  High humidity.  Gross.

And then ...
MDI Half Marathon, Bar Harbor, ME:  50-60 degrees, no humidity, blue skies, perfect day.

Can I get an Amen?  I mean FINALLY, a race in which the weather worked in my favor.  Ideal conditions.  If I'd had a bad race today, I would have been digging deep to find anything to blame. 

That's better.  That shows you how I felt today. 

I have run this race 4 times, and every time I have it's been a day like today, but knowing the streak I've had in 2011, I figured it would be hot, or there would be a hail storm, or a tornado, or at least some extreme humidity.

At the finish line with Susan, my good friend and partner in crime
I started the day early with a gorgeous drive to the island with Suzanne drinking coffee and listening to Brandi Carlisle and feeling calm and excited.  Today was not my "A" race of the fall, as I have been more focused on the Maine Half Marathon in Portland in 2 weeks.  So today I was relaxed, treating this race as a solid training run.    We had plenty of time this morning.  We met up with Susan and her husband Liam who was running his first half today.  We stretched and ate and relaxed.  Apparently we had too much time, because my friends started talking about how important it is to have your will in place in case we die.  Let me tell you... great pre-race pep talk right there.

It was remarkable for me how calm I was walking to the starting line.  I get nervous for every race, and for some reason, I was just super calm today.  I enjoyed and appreciated the lack of nerves.  I lined up with Suzanne, Susan and Liam, listened to the national anthem, felt grateful to be where I was on this day, and then we were off.

This course is very challenging with 3 big, long hills and lots of rollers in between, so my approach has always been to just do what I can do.

I had been directed to do a few things:  relax, take it easy, take it especially easy on the downhills to preserve my quads, and try to get my mile splits to be fairly consistent, so that is what I set out to do.

Here's the breakdown:

Mile 1 goes right through Bar Harbor and along the water and it always smells like the ocean which smells like vacation.  All good vibes.

Mile 2 goes straight uphill through a neighborhood and ends up on the Carriage Trails, the wide, groomed dirt trails that make up 9 miles of the course.  I slowed down a good bit on the uphill, but felt strong and steady.  Great start.

Miles 3-4: I felt great and in control, but I started to get hot.  I took off the long sleeve shirt and wrapped it around my waist.  I was now running with my arm sleeves for the first time (loved them).  I eventually pulled them all the way down to my forearms which was perfect.  I appreciated the beautiful course, which by now was dirt trails, rolling hills and lots of shade with bright sunlight filtering through.

Mile 5:  I put my music on, still felt great.  When I passed my friend Nancy's mom Lois, I shouted:  "Can you take my shirt?"  And I whipped it off from around my waist and threw it to her.  I had on my baseball hat and sunglasses, and I realized by her blank stare that she had no idea who I was.   She figured it out after a few minutes, but I laughed at the thought of a race spectator being thrown a sweaty long sleeve shirt by a stranger. 

Mile 6:  feeling great but waiting for the dreaded uphill mile coming next.

Mile 7:  The hill!  It's a long steady climb for an entire mile.  I started up and felt good, and kept going, and still felt good.  I kept asking myself how I was doing, and myself kept saying:  Damn good!  This is so weird!  I'm still running!  For the first time in my history of this course, I never walked one step up that hill. I ran slow and steady and thought about being in a low gear on my bike and just churning away.   It was over before I knew it.

Mile 8:  The blessed, beautiful gift of a mile.  It's all gradually down hill.  During this mile, I felt about as happy and strong as I have ever felt on a long run.  I was alone, my music sounded extra good, I felt like I was flying, and I made an inventory of all the things I was thankful for.  Thank you for the sunshine, for Eagle Lake, for this day, for Maine in September, for my family for allowing me to do this, for my friends, for my coach for pushing me, for my running friends, for my body.  I think I even thanked my shoes and socks.  I'm telling you, I was in a very good place.

Miles 9-10:  Not sure what to tell you.  More beautiful scenery.  I felt strong and in control.  Still happy.

Mile 11:  Out from the carriage trail and onto the regular roads again.  I looked at my watch and realized that if I just held on, I'd have a new course PR.  Hey, I thought there was a mean uphill on this part?  It seemed much better this year.

Mile 12:  The hill that previously sapped me of everything I had left?  No problem.

Mile 13:  Downhill.  Home sweet home.  Really nice self talk went on during this mile, like:  "You've got this."  "You own this."  "Just bring it home."

I finished in 2:13, which is a 3 minute PR for this course, and is only 2 minutes off my all time PR.  Considering this beast of a course, and how strong and in-control I felt, as in, I was not pushing myself out of my comfort zone, I was super happy with that. 

Mile 1:  9:41
Mile 2:  10:43  (all uphill)
Mile 3:  10:12
Mile 4:  10:19
Mile 5:  10:08
Mile 6:  10:06
Mile 7:  11:35  (all uphill)
Mile 8:  10:04
Mile 9:  10:13
Mile 10:  10:19
Mile 11:  10:05
Mile 12:  10:24  (worst hill on the course?  what hill?)
Mile 13:  9:20
Last .1:  :39

I think those splits (the non-enormous hill miles) look pretty consistent.  I relaxed.  I took it easy.  I didn't even have a low moment.  Not one.  And I still had some gas left in the tank at the end.

My times for the 4 years I've run this race are, in chronological order:  2:31, 2:25, 2:16, 2:13.  Chip, chip, chipping away.

My mom and Skyler were there at the finish to see me in.  I found Susan and Liam. 
Suzanne, who impressively ran with an injured leg, came cruising across the finish line with a huge smile.

What a strong finish.

My crew:

My friends Nancy and Alan both had huge PRs today too.

Huge thanks to my mom for coming down and bringing Skyler with her. 
After the race, I grabbed an awesome Veggie and Hummus Sandwich on a bagel from Morningglory Bakery in Bar Harbor and a lemonade for the ride home.  Suzanne and Skyler and I drove away, past stunning ocean views just bursting with sunshine.  What a seriously good day.  Did I mention that I needed a great day?  And I got it.

(this post is sponsored by a large cup of Starbucks at 3:00 pm)


Lloyd said...

Congrats, Emilie. Glad the weather finally cooperated and you were able to capitalize. Well done.

Carver Fam said...

awesome day, awesome run, awesome friend.

I love you and am so proud of you run minus any dark and twisty moments.

And I love all that starbuck sponsors.

Kim Oldenburgh said...

Nice job, Emilie! It sounds like this race is mostly on dirt road-how many miles are dirt vs. tar? Enjoy your run with your mom today.

Emilie said...

Hey Kim! 9 miles on dirt, 4 on the road. You should DO IT!

Thank you... I'm excited to run with my mom...

Nitsirk said...

Congrats! This race is on my "to do" list. Just curious why you used a camelbak though- was there not enough on-course support?

Emilie said...

There is course support every 2 miles. I'm just a creature of habit and like to be in complete control of hydration. Also, I like to run through water stops b/c if I stop to drink when I'm tired, I'm too tempted to walk. You would love this race! (but it sells out in the winter, so plan ahead. :)

Anne-Marie said...

COngrats on another excellent race!
Maybe next year. :)
I'll be thinking of you and your mom today.

Lee said...

Great job especially on that hill! I'm running a half next month which apparently has a 1.5 mile hill at like Mile 11. Not looking forward to that!

Danielle said...

Congrats! Love reading your race reports!

The Finicky Farmer said...

Congratulations, Emilie!

Rowgirl08 said...

Yay!! So glad you had the awesome day (make that two days...can't wait to hear more about Sunday!)....keep up that relaxed attitude for the Maine Half! I know you want a PR, but just letting it flow works, doesn't it!?!

....lots of fun too....:-)

Eileen said...

Just read your three most recent posts ... what a triumphant weekend! You and your mom both deserve some roses and some nice cups of coffee. Cheers to both of you!

Elizabeth said...

Congrats on a great race!!