Sunday, June 04, 2006

Race Report - Covered Bridges Half Marathon

Welp, it was a much better showing for Spence this year than last at the Covered Bridges Half Marathon. For starters, it was pretty chilly - 60˚F and drizzling when I pulled into the Quechee Gorge Village Parking area at 7:30 am. The last bus up to the ski area, Suicide Six, where the race starts, wasn't coming until 8:45 so rather than zoom all the way out there only to wait almost three hours in the rain for a 10:15 start (what a silly time to start a race...) I holed up in my car and listened to The Kahuna's harrowing story of his near death experience at Temecula Xterra. Yikes. It would have been nice to stay in bed a little later but the race organizers insist that we arrive between 7:30 and 8:00 so there's plenty of time to shuttle all 1500 of us up to the start. I also got through the first chapter of The Triathlete's Guide to Mental Training...I can tell that this book is exactly what I need to be studying right now. Excellent.

Before I left the house, I had a bowl of Kashi Go Lean Crunch with soy milk and about half a quart of water. I also packed a pb &j on whole wheat bread that I planned to eat at 9 am, one hour before the start time. Sipped on water in the car and felt like I was fueled and ready to go.

So at about 8:15 I decided that it was time to catch the bus. The lot had filled up and I didn't feel like waiting any more. I'm classically very early to races, usually in true OCD fashion...but the problem with that is that I do much better when I can be alone and have some quiet time before races...and being early gives me FOREVER to hang out and be social and...let's just say there was a lot of social going on. I managed to run into the parents of one of my preschoolers (yes, I taught preschool in another life), a few swim friends, two college friends that I hadn't seen in 12 and 14 years respectively (very weird!), my old landlord, my partner's co-worker, pretty much my partner's brother's entire family of name it, if I knew them from somewhere, they were there. It WAS fun to see everyone but I just get antsy and can't focus...I'm always afraid I'm going to say something wacky while I'm zoning out and thinking about the race... with triathlon it's a little easier because there's so much more to do... running, well, you just's you and your running shoes! Anyway...the bus ride was uneventful....

On to packet pickup - no problem, sat down and tied my chip onto my shoe... #769. Good enough number. Never had it before, seems fine... pinned my bib to my race belt and I was ready to go. But there was still an HOUR until the start. ugh. So I people watched while I ate my pb&j... I was feeling surprisingly calm and also very ready to run. I had a good taper this past week and when I got up this morning it was the first morning my calves and heels hadn't felt piano string tight. Good sign. I visited the porto-lets twice and was ready to go. Still 45 minutes until the start. :(

Finally, I decided I'd waited enough...time for my warmup... I was chilly with a raincoat, polypro top and warmup pants so I decided to go with my long sleeve polypro top instead of my short sleeved top for the race... I'd been moving around, not sitting, but I was still cold - it was a perfect day to run and I was almost psyched to wear the long sleeve top because I'd done so much of my training in it. Cool. Short sleeve shirt, raincoat and pants off, stuffed into my backpack and deposited on the bus that would take my pack to the finish...headed out for one last trip to the port-o-potty and then onto warmup... 40 minutes still to go to the start. Time moved so slow!!! A lot of people were grumpy about how much waiting there was...maybe if we all write letters they'll start the race earlier. It was ok today but last year when it was so hot, it was just too late in the day by the time the last people finished.

10 minute easy jog, everything felt good and loose, warmup done.... 30 minutes to go. Finally ended up chatting with the partner's brother's in-laws for the last half hour...convinced one of them to do the Fairlee Tri with me... cool. It was good. They headed off to the 8-9 minute mile area and I hung toward the back where the 11-12 minute mile folks were. 10:15, helicopter taking pictures above, and we're off!! Finally...

My plan was to keep my HR at about 142-147 for the first 6 miles which, for me, is about 70-75%. My training had shown this would produce 10:45-11:00 min. miles... sure enough, mile one, 10:58. Good. I felt great. Easy breathing, loose muscles, I felt SO much better than I had last year in the heat. When I passed the marker, the time clock said 12:33...two ladies behind me uttered, "YIKES, that's slower than we were walking in our training!!" I turned to them and said, "But remember that's the gun time... we just did 10:58..." The were relieved and said, "YIKES! We're running too fast!!" I didn't see them again but they were positive and determined - I was glad I had helped them in some way.

A big issue for me when I race is that I lose sight of my own progress and get focused on how many people there are behind me...and if I'll be last - which is one of my greatest fears. I made a conscious decision this race to look back only once at the beginning and not was about ME, not the other runners out there. I could control ME and only me so that was the plan. At the start, there were only maybe a dozen people behind me and the car at the back of the pack was in plain sight. But after that one look back, that was it. It was nice to not worry about what was behind me.

I also made a conscious effort in this race to thank every volunteer and fan - and to encourage anyone I passed. It's nice to focus your energy outward and it makes people smile. That was fun...

Mile 2 - 11:20. Ooops, a little slower...but I just wanted to stay under 11:30 for the first half so that's ok...
Mile 3 - 11:33. Hmmm...and my HR is creeping up...avg. 149 that mile...ok, I still feel good, but let's not go over 150. I also reminded myself that mile 3 is typically slow for me, no matter where I'm running - no worries...

Mile 4 brings you into the town of Woodstock and this is where the fans are - and there's a brief section where you're passing gazelles who have already run thru town and are headed back out. I was relieved to see a few familiar faces of people who I knew were running sub 7:30 miles so I wasn't that far back anymore. Cool. I had passed a few folks and started to play the reel-em-in game... picking a target and working to pass them... good way to keep your mind occupied....and quite encouraging.

Mile 4 - 11:26. That's better...but HR is averaging 151... ok, well, keep it there until mile 6.
Mile 5 has a little hill as you head out of town...passed 4 or 5 people who were walking up then I was heading out of town...

This race course is so beautiful and one of the really fun things about it is that there's something fun going on at every mile. Water stops were every two miles but starting at mile 4, there's live music at all the miles where there's no water... so there was the Lyme Town Band, then a group of older gentlemen singing a-capella, a jazz band, a rock band, a drum group going STOMP crazy... so fun...and then random families along the route that blast music from their car stereos and dance in the street - oh how I enjoyed the 6 and 8 year oldish girls dancing to the Jackson 5. But my favorite thing was the rows of kids - ages 4-7 - standing along the side with their hands out wanting high fives... so cute... and it's so great to get your mind off of things, if only briefly.

I knew once I was heading out of town that there were some good downhills so I had planned to try and gain some speed on these while keeping my HR where I wanted it. This is where reeling folks in became the most fun.

Mile 5 - 11:13, avg. HR 152...that's more like it.
Mile 6 - 11:17, avg. HR 156... ok, enough trying to keep it way low, let's fixate on 156 and keep it below that. 156 used to be my aerobic/anaerobic threshold but now I think it's up around 164 or 165... I was still feeling pretty good. I ate a Gu gel at this point...I don't really use gels and I know it's a bad idea to try new stuff on race day - I'd tried them before and knew they wouldn't make me ill...but after today that's it - I just don't like them. For some reason I felt the need to try once more. I think it worked fine and gave me a good boost but honestly, if I can find a way to carry a pb&j, I think I'll stick to that.

Mile 7 - 10:52, avg. HR 152. perfect.
Mile 8 - 12:42, avg. HR 153... this is where the one hill is - just before the mile 8 marker. I was starting to feel a little bit more tired but still pretty strong. And I was passing walkers left and right. I did walk briefly thru miles 6 and 8 water stops...but I had fixated on one woman with a fuel belt who wasn't stopping and I made a point to not lose her - that seemed to work pretty well.

Mile 9 - 10:56, avg. HR 154. At this point, I started to get cocky. My watch said I'd been running for 1:42... and just two short weeks ago, I hit mile 9 at exactly 2 hours. Was it really possible that I was 18 whole minutes faster than that, and still feeling pretty good? I was thinking I might be able to pull off a sub 2:20... but then I remembered about looking behind me and decided that looking that far ahead was probably not the best thing either. Still 4 more miles to go - anything could happen. I was still tracking Fuel Belt Lady and decided I would not let her drop me, no matter what...

Mile 10 - 11:07, avg. HR 155. My quads were starting to remind me they were doing most of the work at this point... but with only 3 miles left it was time to see what I had in the tank. To my surprise, Fuel Belt Lady WALKED thru the water stop at mile 10. ZOOM. Dropped her and never saw her again.

At this point, most people around me were doing some variation of walk/jog...and I found myself flying by them. I didn't want to leave anything out there. I was picking runners who were a good 25 yards ahead of me and reeling them in within 5 minutes... it was FUN. But I was definitely getting tired. I could tell that my long runs had only taken me 10 miles...and that last 3 was certainly feeling like the extra distance that my body knew it was....

Mile 11 - 10:38, avg. HR 158...nice to have my fastest mile be mile 11...that's worth something...

Mile 12 - 10:49, avg. HR more mile...I can hold this pace for one more mile...I can...I can do anything for one more problem...don't look back....don't let anyone overtake you...reel them in. I was feeling pretty spent at this point but was drawing huge strength from the spectators as I could hear them saying things like, "Wow, she's really running strong...and at this stage of the race..." I felt like a runner. It was running nirvana.

But where is the freakin' finish line??? I can hear the crowd, I can hear the announcer, people are walking back toward me with finisher's t-shirts and food, can it please get here NOW...I've had enough!!! I had just passed two women running together - I had reeled them in from a ways away - for about 2 miles I'd been watching them jog/walk and had been making steady progress toward passing them and right at the end they punched the gas. No way was I letting them by. They finished behind me...

Mile 13.1 - 11:52, avg. HR 161 with a max HR during the mile of 169. Ouchie...

BUT I HAD STUCK TO THE PLAN and FINISHED the race I wanted to run. The weather was perfect, my taper was perfect, it all went the way I wanted it to go. And the best part about it was that my mental state thru the whole thing stayed positive. I never rolled tape of the voices that so often have plagued me..."what are you doing out here? this is crazy, you're not fast enough, you're not strong enough, you don't have what it takes, what if you're last..." THEY. WERE. GONE.

I hit the finish mat at a sprint, making sure that the last two women I passed stayed behind me. Took a minute to stop seeing stars but I never felt like I was going to lose the contents of my belly. Some kind man took the chip off my shoelace for me and I was handed water, a tshirt and lots of smiles... Retrieved my bag from the pile and put on a dry top... Turns out I probably could've kept my short sleeve shirt on - and I wonder if being a little cooler would've kept my HR a little lower... but mostly I was fine... it was still gray with a nice drizzle... a perfect day for a run...

Unofficial finishing time from my watch: 2:26:49...putting Weasel Boy on the leader board with Scott in close contention for the win!! No results posted yet but stay tuned... I don't know WB - you might have to forfeit your guess since, A.) you don't yet have a blog and B.) you coached me thru the last month and had a very good idea about what time I would deliver... the judges are still making their decision. BTW, thanks SO MUCH for calling to wish me well last night. It was GREAT to hear your voice and know that you had such confidence in me... and thanks for the month of coaching... it clearly paid off...

Overall, I'm totally psyched with my race today. I think I did as well as I could've and it's a huge victory that I stuck with the plan and finished strong. It's so hard to start so far toward the back of the pack and feel like you're so slow...but that was part of the plan and it totally paid off in the second half of the race when I had so much left to burn. Passing people is the best...and I told every one of them they were doing a good job... And I think I only got passed once during the whole race. Cool.

So from 2:55 last year to 2:26 this year... I'll take that improvement ANY day. Now, for the next month, it's ALL about the bike...

Thanks for tuning in...and now back to my ice bags (no, I couldn't pull off the ice bath...I was just too damn cold from being out in the rain)


Blogger Bolder said...

you raced, your race, well done.

great race, great report!


5:24 PM GMT-5

Blogger nancytoby said...

Congratulations on a very well-run race and a fabulous improvement!! Thanks for taking us along with such a great race report! I did that race years ago and I finished around 3-something, if I recall, so I'm sure you were NOWHERE near last!!

6:08 PM GMT-5

Blogger Barb said...

I checked your weather this morning and saw that it was going to be cool for you. I just KNEW you were going to rock this race! Awesome job!

Now you get to walk like a cowboy for two days! LOL! A small price to pay!

10:11 PM GMT-5

Blogger Iron Pol said...

Good job on the race. And good report. There's no way I can keep all those details during a run.

There's a guy who's run a few races I completed who always carries a PB&J in a plastic bag under his shirt (not sure how he attaches it, safety pins?). He eats that sandwich at mile 18. So, it can be done.

And there's nothing wrong with being dead last. I achieved that in my triathlon, Saturday. Details on how in the race report.

Great job on a good race and on sticking to your plan so well. Learning to do that will pay huge dividends in the future.

8:36 AM GMT-5

Blogger Flatman said...


What a great race report, too!

9:54 AM GMT-5

Blogger 'Zilla said...

Well done, Spence!!! You laid out the plan and STUCK to it! And, you were flexible as well.... I love your strategy of reeling ppl in, super job, girl!

I'm looking forward to our ride in a couple of weeks! :)

11:36 AM GMT-5

Blogger Joe said...

Awesome! Brilliant! Magnificent! Epic! One for the ages! Congrats to you, Spence!

> I'm classically very early to races,
> usually in true OCD fashion...

Haha, me too.

> My plan was to keep my HR at about 142-147

Wow! I wish I could keep mine that low!

> I made a conscious decision this race
> to look back only once at the beginning
> and not was about ME, not
> the other runners out there.

Good philosophy!

> oh how I enjoyed the 6 and 8 year oldish girls
> dancing to the Jackson 5. But my favorite
> thing was the rows of kids - ages 4-7 -
> standing along the side with their hands
> out wanting high fives... so cute

Hehe! How cute!

> Fuel Belt Lady WALKED thru the water stop
> at mile 10. ZOOM. Dropped her and never
> saw her again.

You go girl!

> FINISHED the race I wanted to run.

Isn't that a great feeling?!

> I hit the finish mat at a sprint

Nice! What a killer instinct!

> So from 2:55 last year to 2:26 this year...

Wow! I can't wait to read next year's report. GREAT job!

5:59 PM GMT-5

Blogger tarheeltri said...

Great race and awesome improvement from last year!

8:57 PM GMT-5


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