Posts Tagged ‘gulf beach half-marathon’

You wouldn’t know it from this blog, but I’ve been diligently training for a half-marathon. I didn’t expect much from myself in the way of performance at the Gulf Beach Half-Marathon this past Saturday, especially considering that when I reviewed the results from my last race (the $10 10k in Riverside Park on August 24), I wept with disappointment and frustration. My time of 51:08 was 8 seconds slower than what I ran on Governors Island two months earlier. What had I been doing for those two months? Was my consistent training completely for shit? I wondered. Needless to say, I was expecting an equally painful and shitty performance in Milford, CT for the half.

Nevertheless, I was looking forward to it. The course was supposed to be flat, the weather beautiful, and the other runners few. I love me a small, local race. I awoke at 4:30 to give myself enough time to get ready, eat breakfast and drive up there in time for the 8 AM start. I got there at 7:15 AM, packet pick up took all of 2 minutes, and I spent the rest of the time waiting in line for the one port-a-potty. Hopefully the organizers will add more at the start next year (this was the debut running of the race). My winter running gear is still in storage at the Pennsylvania house so I wore stripey socks on my hands to keep them warm (I have Raynaud’s Syndrome). My paws looked like this: 


The race started, and I had no time goal other than breaking two hours, and no strategy other than to run a negative split, a.k.a. delaying the pain for as long as possible. Really, the main thing I hoped to get out of this race (apart from a test of my fitness) was a positive experience in the state of Connecticut. I have an irrational prejudice against the state which I need to get over, since I talk shit about poor CT all the time even though it’s never done anything to me!

The course was as-advertised–scenic and flat. The houses were all gorgeous, and the views of the water were so pretty. I even got a few briny whiffs of air, which made me all nostalgic for my childhoods spent by the ocean and the bay with my Nana. Every mile or so there would be a group of neighbors mucked up on a corner waiting for some local hero to come trotting by. Some folks also watched us come by as they sipped their coffee on their porch, and one boy was cheering us on from his bedroom window. (I hope his parents have subsequently unlocked him, but who knows. Maybe he was a very very bad boy. Do you think he was being punished for hating on New York State?)

My first mile went by in 8:22 and I thought that was too fast so I reined it in for Mile 2 which hit at 8:37. But clearly that was too slow since all my splits were about 10 seconds faster than that (at least) for the duration of the race. Turns out flat courses agree with me, and they help me to run evenly (normally I suck at this). Here are my splits for the first half of the race: 8:22-8:37-8:24-8:26-8:24-8:16. Mile 6 was faster because by that point the leaders had reached the turnaround and were headed back towards us, so this got me excited and I picked up speed with the crazy thought that I might see someone I knew running towards me. I was the lady in pigtails frantically scanning the face of everyone running towards me. At least by then I’d removed the stripey socks, so I didn’t also look like the slow girl who must be protected from stabbing herself in the eyes with her fingernails. Small blessings, right?

Normally for a half-marathon an out and back course would seem like a very bad idea, but this route was so beautiful I was actually looking forward to retracing it in reverse. I already mentioned the residential streets were beautiful (in fact, it reminded me a little bit of those miles of the Staten Island Half where we run along the water and can see the Statue of Liberty, but way prettier), but we also ran along a boardwalk that went through a nature preserve park. As I ran, I could hear sea grasses whispering as the wind brushed through them, and I could see the sun glint off the water. It was excellent. There was even a short jot we took through a wooded trail. As I ran back to the finish line (we started and finished at the beach for which the race is named), I thought Milford, CT was a great town to be a runner. I thought this even while being pushed around by a headwind that ceased only for the few times I had to truck up a slight hill. That’s right, the whole 6-plus miles back were into a headwind.

These are my splits for the last half of the race: 8:28-8:29-8:27-8:06-8:12-8:15-7:57-00:43 (9:15 pace). At Mile 10 I picked up the pace. You see, there was this chick, I already passed her once, then in Mile 9 she decided to pass me back. That made me cranky, so in Mile 10 I made sure that she would stay passed. I never saw her again, and I went on to pick off about 10 more runners over the course of the next three miles. That was nice. Only one guy passed me during that time. I also would like to mention the volunteers. They were helpful, cheerful and definitely made a big difference as the course was not very intensely marked (runners shared the road with cars for the whole race, except for the part on the boardwalk).

Mile 13 I was totally in the zone and was excited to run hard and strong across the finish line…until I realized that we had to cross the beach for the last tenth of a mile to get to the finish line. That’s right, I floundered in the sand, slowing down to a 9:15 minute per mile pace as I flailed about, worrying that the shifting surface would aggravate Betty (my sensitive right adductor brevis). Oh, I was pissed, especially when the spectators at the sidelines, meaning well, shouted to me, “Come on lady! Keep going! You got this!” I wanted to snarl at them, You try and run at top speed through the fucking sand! But I didn’t, because I thought it best not to bring anymore crazy to Connecticut than I already had. Besides, for all I knew, Milford runners are championship beach runners, having such easy access to the sand, so they would have just laughed at me, an obvious outsider.

But, there I was: done, in 1:49:12 (could I have broken 1:49 if I’d finished on pavement?), according to Little G. I was well under 2 hours, but still three minutes over my PR for the 2010 NYC Half-Marathon. I had delayed the pain until the last possible moment (Mile 12). And, I had appreciated this little corner of Connecticut for what it was: a friendly, beautiful, sane beach community, full of runners and supportive neighbors. We can’t PR every race we run blah blah blah.

Yeah, yeah. But now, I really want to KILL IT at the Houston Half-Marathon in January. I hear that’s a flat course, that actually is run in its ENTIRETY on pavement! Suh-weet! Let the training continue, in an amped-up fashion.

PS Another reason to not hate Connecticut: apparently, they  have firemen, too!


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