28 November 2010

Race Recap: Chilly Half Marathon

"We run, not because we think it is doing us good, but because we enjoy it and cannot help ourselves." -Sir Roger Bannister

In October I ran my first half marathon, finally accomplishing something I had wanted to do for years. I literally came home from the BAA Half Marathon and began researching another half I could this fall. I was devastated when all races conflicted with the American Dietetic Association Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo or were sold out. But me being me, I got resourceful. I contacted the race director of the Chilly Half Marathon in Newton asking if there were any way I could get a number if I volunteered at other races. I ended up volunteering at the Bill's 5K in Newton Centre on Halloween and also at the number pick-up for Chilly at City Sports in Chestnut Hill the day before the race (where I was thrilled to meet very successful and inspirational fellow Boston blogger Carrots 'N' Cake by recognizing her husband). 

I knew Chilly was going to be a great race for me when I was told by a volunteer parking lot attendant I had the absolute last parking space at Newton South High School, the start and finish location of the race. I got in line for the women's restroom and waited over 25 minutes -- it was outrageous! By the time I went to the bathroom and checked my bag, I found myself jogging to the race start so as to not miss the starting gun. Because so many other people were inside the high school with me, they delayed the start by two minutes, allowing me to stretch a bit more and adjust to the cold temperature. I started iPod Shuffle and off we were, about 1200 runners ready to tackle 13.1 miles.

Anyone familiar with the Boston area and the Boston Marathon understands the phrase "the hills of Newton." Newton is a rather large community of smaller Newtons (Newton Corner, Newton Centre, Newtonville, Waban, and so on) and to say it's a hilly area is a huge understatement. Although much of the course was flat, Miles 4 through 8 were basically all hills. The first six miles were fantastic. It was a beautiful, sunny day without too much of a breeze and I was so happy just to be racing again. Around Mile 6 I started to feel a bit beat up by the hills and around Mile 7 I was  starting to experience some serious dietary distress. All the lines for the port-a-johns along the course were at least 3 deep and I decided to keep going; it wasn't THAT bad. At the top of Woodchester Road and Algonquin Road there was the most beautiful view of Boston -- I had no idea the altitude back there was so high! It really gave me motivation heading into running down Heartbreak Hill, a route I run quite frequently in training runs.

I had one incident on Commonwealth Avenue where a police officer tried to stop me from crossing the street to let a car go through. I said "Really?!" to the cop and kept running the course. Reckless? Yes. Dangerous? Possibly. But I was frustrated. Keep in mind I say "thank you" to all police officers and volunteers along the race course for their support and safety of participants. Except this one Newton police officer, to whom I am very sorry. 

By Mile 10 I found my second wind and knew I was on pace to PR by a significant amount of time. Then my nemesis, my right IT band, decided it was time to act up again. I decided my pace and overall time was so great the best thing for me to do would be to stop and stretch. The stretch which seems to help me best involves laying down and crossing my right left over my straight, outstretched left leg (see example picture). So right at the Mile 11 sign I lay down half on the sidewalk, half in someone's driveway and stretched for about a minute. Several other runners asked if I was okay. I replied I was stretching my IT band and one guy replied with "ouch, I hope you finish" in a concerned, understanding tone like he knew the pain I was experiencing. Having another half marathon under my belt, I knew the running the last two miles in pain was completely possible. Before I knew it I was approaching the finish line and heard my name being read over the loudspeaker as I crossed the finish line. I was emotional and teared up a bit as I was handed a medal and the timing device was kindly removed from my ankle by a volunteer. Despite my burning right IT band, my legs didn't seize up as they had in my last race. Instead my lower back hurt a bit (later I discovered it was swollen but ice and a massage helped significantly). Although like my first half marathon, it was not exactly pretty, it was still a 6 minute PR (i.e. Personal Record) for me! Very exciting!

The kind folks at mix1 found my blog and sent me some samples of their all-natural protein shake, which I enjoyed during my final training runs as well as after the race. I was a bit apprehensive since the only other recovery drinks I had tried I did not like. But I really enjoyed mix1 -- no chalky flavor or weird aftertastes. The Blueberry-Vanilla flavor was my favorite and I will definitely be purchasing more in the future.

I've realized I absolutely live for racing. Not because I think I am going to win by any means; for me, just finishing is winning. But rather because I thrive off the energy in the air, being surrounded by other serious runners, simply pinning a bib on my shirt gives me such a thrill.  I'm so excited to start running my "11 in '11" in February, which I am sure will be here before I know it! I'll be blogging again soon about my first gluten-free Thanksgiving and other updates.

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