Wednesday, March 21, 2007

the windy whaling city half marathon

This past Sunday, March 18, Lynn, Laura, Audrey, Katie Fobert, and I ran the New Bedford half marathon. (A couple dozen men from the team ran too, but I'll focus on the ladies right now. The men can create their own blog!)

New Bedford is on the southern coast of Massachusetts. A good chunk of the course follows the shore, and the rest of it is pretty darn close to the water. What that means for runners is an inevitably windy race!

And windy it was. reports that the winds were blowing from the west at about 24 mph. The whole race felt as though we were running into the wind. But it was a blast, nonetheless.

I rode up to New Bedford with Junyong, who I will nickname the Race Bus Driver. I offered a dozen times to meet him somewhere so he wouldn't have to pick me up from my house, but he insisted that it wasn't a problem to come get me. I was the first stop on Junyong's route; then we drove through most of Medford, Somerville, Cambridge, East Cambridge, and Boston picking up a bunch of guys. We finally got onto the highway about 30 minutes behind schedule. Junyong was a bit frantic and nervous that we'd all get to the race late because of him. But it was fine. We got to New Bedford at about 10:20, parked, jogged to the school, and had just enough time to register, stand in the crazy long lines for the restrooms, and get to the start by 10:50. No time for a much of a warm-up, but no worries.

It was chilly at the start. I ran a couple of strides into the wind and just got more worked up about the wind. I think most of us were thinking the same thing -- we just needed to start, run for 13.1 miles, and finish and forget about our times which were bound to be slow considering the wind. Everyone went out fast. I was getting passed left and right, but I told myself I needed to stay controlled. Mile 1 was in 6:20 -- exactly as I had planned. It felt more like a 6:05 mile, though, because of the wind. Even windier mile 2 was 6:40. Mile 3 had a giant hill into the wind -- that was really slow, about 7 minutes flat. Mile 4 was a bit faster, but I was tired from the wind and the uphill -- about 6:50. I think my 4 mile split was 26:56. Much much slower than I had wanted to go.

But then the course turned, and we running more-or-less perpendicular to the wind instead of straight into it. The road started to slope downhill just a little bit, and it felt great. My leg speed picked up. I don't know what the splits were after that, but no matter. I felt good and passed a bunch of people who might have gone out fast and smoked me on the early hills.

Miles 7.5 through mile 10.5 or 11 were really windy but flat. We ran around a peninsula completely exposed to the wind. My legs felt good, though. I kept picking people off to pass and was catching people who had whizzed by me at mile 2. It felt awesome. I ran by a street called Lucas St. and pretended I was running with Lucas W. and thought about his crazy inspiring mileage load and felt inspired. I picked it up a bit. I wish I could have seen Lynn and Laura ahead of me, but they were too fast! I saw Audrey though and caught up to the poor girl who had pretty much puked a few miles earlier and still had the guts and toughness to keep running.

There was a big, big hill towards the end of the race. I was really hurting at this point. I was exhausted from the cold wind. My skin felt dry and wind-burned, and my lungs felt like someone had poured dry ice in them. But somehow I stuck it out over that last hill. Someone yelled out from the sidelines, "only half mile to go!" So I got excited. I saw a faint glimmer of a brown ponytail and long-sleeved white shirt ahead of me and recognized the speedy runner as Lynn. It was my goal to catch up to her, and I did! I think I finally caught up to Lynn about 2 seconds before we crossed the finish. It was awesome. I've never been able to finish with a teammate like that before. I'm sure the wicked downhill for the last 70 meters or so had a lot to do with it. I think I ran the last 9.1 miiles at a 6:20 pace average. Overall pace was 6:28/mile. I like this negative split tactic.

At the finish, I un-velcroed my chip-band and discovered that it had eaten into the skin on my ankle. I got some bandaids and had the blood cleaned up by the First Aid people. Lynn and I were freezing and jogged back to the school to get warm and trade stories about the race. We saw Tom on the way back and he told us Laura had done awesome. Lynn and I were pysched. Laura ran a 1:21:50 -- 6:15 pace. Amazing!! Lynn and I both ran about 1:24:43. Not the fastest we'd ever run, but considering the wind, we'd take that time with pleasure. The three of us finished faster than the first GBTC female finisher at this race in 2006. Katie Fobert ran a solid race too, tying her mark from the Hyannis half-marathon a few weeks back. We placed third over all as a team. The GBTC men placed second and totally dominated. Not a bad start to the 2007 USATF Grand Prix series.

By the time Lynn and I made it back to the school where the post-race festivities were scheduled, the whole place smelled like greasy fried fish. Apparently, it is tradition to serve clam chowder and fried fish sandwiches after the New Bedford half marathon. The smell was really kind of off-putting. I nibbled on a banana and some crackers and thought about the happy vegetarian meal I'd make when I got home. Yum.

Junyong played bus driver again on the way home and insisted that he drive me home. Well, I would have none of that. On the way to drop off Max, we drove by the Roxbury Crossing T stop and waited at a light. I jumped out of the car in the middle of the road, yelled "thanks, and here's some gas money" to Junyong, and ran (okay, waddled) to the T. Hopefully that saved him some time. Junyong thought I was nuts!

It has taken me longer than I expected to recover from this race. It's Wednesday today, and my legs still felt kind of creaky during my runs today. The next big thing I'm looking forward to is watching more than a dozen of my teammates race the 50-athlete strong 10 km race at the Solomon Track in Dedham this Saturday. Almost 25 laps around the track! Tons of PRs will be recorded on Saturday. This race will go down in history. The next day is the Eastern States 20 miler. Stay tuned for stories.

Only 26 days till the marathon!!!

(sorry this post is so long)

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