When I returned to running a little less than a week after the Richmond Marathon and my legs were feeling so good, I really didn’t want to think about tapering all over again or gearing myself up mentally or physically for another RACE. I was signed up for the Rehoboth Seashore Half Marathon three weeks later though, and I had an opportunity to race again there. I considered it, trust me – even thought about switching to the full marathon in Rehoboth because I felt I had trained for a faster 26.2 this cycle – and I wrote down (in my Believe I Am journal) all my reasons for wanting to race again and all my reasons for not wanting to …. it was a no-brainer when I looked at it that way. I wanted to keep moving, to just run for the love of and joy of running. I didn’t want to think at all about paces or pushing myself in a workout or consider strategies or have to run a ton less to properly taper. Boston training starts up in early January and in my heart I knew if I spent the weeks between cycles thinking about racing, preparing for it, running it and recovering from it, I would burn out mentally and emotionally without a doubt. And possibly – actually, most likely, if I really think about it – be disappointed with myself for one reason or another.
So in the weeks after Richmond I hopped in the pool and started swimming (something I have been wanting to do for a while). I took spinning classes and fell in love with that all over again. I ran with my friends, I ran on the trails, and didn’t even wear my watch much of the time. The week before the Rehoboth half I ran 58 miles like that, and the week of the race (including the race) I came in at 52, including 7 miles the day before the race. Needless to say, my legs were feeling strong but they were anything but “fresh” or “race ready.” And you know what – I didn’t care at all! Inside, I was happy. I felt balanced. I was SO excited to go to Rehoboth with my good friend Elizabeth who was traveling up here from Atlanta to visit me and have a girls running weekend together. Elizabeth and I met at Hood to Coast when we ran with Nuun two summers ago. We hadn’t seen one another since then, and I don’t even exactly know how to describe to you how awesome it was to have her here, to get to spend time together. Some people just come into your life in an instant and they are meant to be there forever. Elizabeth is one of those people for me. She has this incredible goal of running a marathon or half marathon in every state, so this trip would check off Delaware for her and be her 20th state! It was also her first race since having hip labrum surgery back in April. We had a ton to celebrate. Not being all pre-race-crazy was a good thing for both of us. I wanted to be present to enjoy my time with my friend and let the race be a part of that — not the focus of that.
|re-nuunited and it feels so good!|
Elizabeth and I had so much fun walking around and exploring Rehoboth when we got there. The town is adorable and was decorated festively for the holidays. The shops (there are a ton, and many of them are just so cute and unique!) were open and our hotel could not have been more perfect, or more convenient – it was walking distance to anything and everything we wanted to see or do (including the packet pickup, the ocean, the start and the finish lines!) We had a great dinner with Michele (who I was really excited to finally meet in person) before calling it a night, and the next morning the three of us walked together to the Start.
|ready and all smiles!|
As I stood at the Start with Michele I felt giddy. Just excited to be there and so happy to feel so relaxed about the run. I hadn’t thought through my pacing at all but I knew I wanted to feel comfortable and I also felt pretty confident that I could do that and still run a PR, which would be under a 1:33.
The race began and I found myself really relaxed, and was surprised when I looked at my watch and saw sub-7:00 pace. At first I thought maybe I should slow down, that this pace might start to kick me in the butt later especially on the windy parts of the course which would come later. Quickly though I decided I didn’t care so much about that, and reminded myself that I was going to trust my body and just run relaxed and enjoy myself.
I felt pretty steady at that pace for quite a while, and controlled my effort when the wind got bad or when I found myself in the park dodging mud puddles or sloshing right through them. I stopped looking at my watch and just had fun with it.
Mile 1 – 6:45
Mile 2 – 6:49
Mile 3 – 6:56
Mile 4 – 6:42
Mile 5 – 6:41
Mile 6 – 6:47
Mile 7 – 6:59
Mile 8 – 6:51
Mile 9 – 6:48
|gotta love the gel-eating race pictures!|
At the end of Mile 9, the half marathoners turned back and the marathoners continued on. It was at this point, as I was making the u-turn, that the girl in front of me called to me with a big smile – I remember her saying something like “Come on! Let’s do this!” and telling me that she knew me from my blog and that she totally believed we could run a 1:31 or 1:32! I told her I was sure she was right and admitted that I wasn’t really planning to race hard today, but her energy and excitement totally kicked me into a new gear and just made me want to run faster. This is the way to race — with another awesome woman who loves running as much as you do!! I think this is what they must have meant when they coined the term “perfect stranger” – we were instant friends and on a mission together for the next few miles. It was SO much fun! I felt our pace picking up and told her I couldn’t chat anymore until after the race (because I needed to breathe!) and she totally agreed. We ran single file on the trail from there on out and it just felt awesome. I am pretty sure I was smiling the whole way.
Mile 10- 6:35
Mile 11 – 6:42
Mile 12 – 6:37
Mile 13 – 6:31
Last .2 (watch was long) – 6:23 average
I crossed the line seconds before she did and as soon as she came across I greeted her with a huge hug!! It was so cool!! My time was 1:29:31, a 6:50 average and it was the first time I ran a half marathon under 1:30 (not to forget the fact that this was a PR for me by 4 minutes!). We stood at the finish and chatted for a while – and as luck would have it Anabelle (that’s her name, I found once we could actually speak!) doesn’t live far from me at all! This winter we will both be training for Boston (it will be her first – and she qualified with her first and only marathon ever – aaaamazing in my opinion). We were the 6th and 7th overall female finishers and we took 1st and 2nd places in our age group! She had to hit the road to get back to her family but we are going to make plans to run together this winter – I am beaming just thinking about how fun this aspect of the weekend was, making a new friend out on the course like that. So cool. So much of what I love about this awesome sport is summed up by my experience meeting and running with Anabelle. I wish we had gotten a picture taken of us, but neither of us had our phones or cameras with us.
|me with my award!|
And the celebrations continued from there. Elizabeth crushed her goal of 2 hours and finished strong in a 1:52! I was so proud of her, and so excited that she felt as good as she did for her first race after surgery! We had tons of fun at the Finish Line tent – I got my award, we had an awesome beer (Dogfish Head brewery!) and met more amazing runners! That night Elizabeth and I had a great time watching football, drinking beer and just hanging out!
I’m really so thankful for the weekend that we had together. It was the **perfect** end to a fantastic season of training and racing and I would not have wanted it to be any other way. I learned a lot about myself and was reminded about what I love most about the sport and the community of running. The HEART that is in it, the people it connects me to and the strength and joy it brings out from within me … that’s what matters the most!!