Thursday, June 9, 2016

Gearing Up For Worcester Running Festival

It was just two weeks ago that I ran the first Half of the Vermont City Marathon and in just over a week I am heading to Worcester, Massachusetts to run my next Half Marathon in the Worcester Running Festival. This will be my first Half that I am doing out of state. Someday I would love to do Disney or even the Runner's World Half but until the little's get a wee bit bigger, and I can actually get the nerve to leave them overnight, races have to be close by. It was a goal of 2016 to do one out of state race and it only seemed appropriate it be in Massachusetts since that is where I spent my twenties and still call it home. 

I have no idea what to expect from this race. I read the coarse description which did offer that starting around mile three it will offer the hilliest stretch for the next couple miles. Isn't that just very nice of the coarse! I do love hills just as much as I hate them. Being that it is earlier in the race I am figuring this will help me pace myself the first half of the race and those hills I will be running down the last half and can gain some time back then. 

I love running new routes and seeing new scenery. Worcester has some very old and historic buildings and houses that I am sure will be wonderful to see. I don't need to know the coarse to feel comfortable running it. It's an adventure to me to venture out on new roads. I always take my running shoes with me when we do our family mini vacation to Old Orchard Beach, Maine each year and love running while having no idea where I am. 

It's been a busy month and I am looking forward to next weekend. Of course for the race and also because we get to stay with and see close friends of ours. The Worcester Half also has a 5K portion that  my girlfriend Sharon is running. This will be her second 5K and I am so proud of her! Not only has she taken up running in the past year but this also comes after she suffered a stroke. She is a strong woman, wonderful mother, and incredible friend. She has always been there for me and has supported me in my running. Now we get to go to a race together! I am very excited and can't wait to be at the START line next to her. 

I have no goals for this race other than to have fun! I am not worried about time or a PR. Don't get me wrong, a new PR would be lovely yet I don't think it will be this race. I want to take this race and just do it because I love running. I want it to serve as a reminder that I am lucky to be able to run and savor in the steps my feet take. I want to run with a smile on my face and greet the hills with determination. I want this race to be filled with moments of euphoria that only a runner could understand. It could end up being the worst race I have done, but it still will be running where I use to call home. That right there, that is something special. 

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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

VCM 2016 & Half Marathon #8 Recap

Here's the thing about Vermont, it is like the worst boyfriend/girlfriend you ever had. It's unreliable and completely untrustworthy. At least that is how the weather is. Just a few weeks ago it was reaching freezing at night and suddenly we are blasted with a heat spell. This past weekend was one of my favorite weekends of spring: The Vermont City Marathon. I have loved this event for years. I have been a spectator, a participant in the 3-5 person relay and for the past three years I have run a Half Marathon in it, teaming up with my father. To say I look forward to this is an understatement. I feel like a little kid at Christmas when this race approaches and running in it is like unwrapping my gifts.

This was my second Half Marathon of this year along with it being the 8th one I have run to date. My training this year has been better than the past few years. It doesn't always feel it in the moment yet on a long run I can feel the difference in my endurance and the way my legs carry me. In April I did the Half Marathon Unplugged and was so close to beating my personal PR (by 45 seconds!). I had not made a commitment to break any PR's in this run. I had been watching the weather for days and saw that the heat and humidity were going to be a factor. I ran a couple runs when it was in the 80's in the weeks leading up to this race yet nothing more than five miles with my trusty Camelbak with Nuun to help me through the beating sun. Race morning the weather predicted cloudy skies, in the 80's with humidity. All week there were updates from Race Vermont regarding the conditions and how they would prepare for this day. The thing is, can you really prepare for Mother Nature? This race proved you could not.

Dad & I. Team: Pounding Pavement
By the start at 8am the sun had made it's appearance and was already blazing the pavement. I had hydrated well and properly fueled throughout the week and that morning. The race started and I was among the thousand of runners that filled the streets of Burlington. The roar and cheers of the spectators guiding us through the first few miles until we found ourselves on the Burlington Beltline. For those of you who are not from Vermont, this is a stretch of pavement that has no shade. It is also the only time of the year that it is ever closed down as it is a major connector within Burlington. Race morning the announcers for the race titled it "The Frying Pan". Suddenly there were thousands of runners in that pan that were literally being cooked. With no shade and inclines to challenge you, this part of the coarse became the hardest.

I have run the Beltline several times over the years. Most people grumble about it. Others speak profanities about this part of the race. I have always enjoyed it. That was until Sunday.
Heading out to the "Frying Pan"

I was happy with my pace up until around mile six. Around this time I realized that in order to finish this race I would have to slow down and be sure I listened to my body. Part of me wanted to push myself a little harder than I was but I knew that I couldn't. I resorted to a comfortable pace and by mile 8 was just happy to see the end of the Belt Line. I knew after that the last five miles would be kinder to me. This proved to be to be partly true. The sun was not the only evil factor, the humidity had started to come play too. Cheers from the crowds were being competed with by the sirens from rescue attending to other runners. Mile 11 I saw a marathoner just stop and stagger.

The people in the neighborhoods were amazing, as always. Out there along with the volunteers handing out water and snacks from there house and standing there hosing down runners as they passed by. I made sure to run in every hose I went by as I prayed for clouds and rain. It was evident I was going to finish this part of the race without either one of those.

As I hit mile twelve I felt a wave of relief. Instead of the usual push in that last mile I simply was just happy it was almost done. I finally came into Oakledge Park and handed off to my father to finish the last half. I finished in 1:41:39. Despite the conditions I was happy with my time and that I was able to finish safely.

I was worried about my father and the other runners. The heat and humidity were increasing. I waited with my brother for my sister in law to come in (it was her FIRST Half!!! Congrats to her!) and when she did we all headed to the finish to wait for my father. I was reunited with my kids who at this point were happy to see me but also ready to go home.The heat turns even the sweetest children into grumbling little monsters. I managed to get my youngest to sleep on me as we watched waves of runners come in. I got to see a couple of people I know finish and the guy that I was pacing with up until my last mile. As we waited Run Vermont asked for every one's attention and announced that the race was officially closed due to the heat and humidity and needing to keep everyone safe. The crowd fell silent, cheers suddenly stopped, and people were crying. I felt a sinking in my stomach and my heart suddenly felt heavy for the runners out there. I also wondered if my father would get to finish his Half or would he be pulled off the coarse.

I continued to cheer on the finishers with my family, repeatedly checking my phone to be sure dad hadn't sent a text. Then suddenly we saw him and it was such a great moment. We eagerly went to greet him and he had no idea that the coarse had been shut down. That last wave of runners were just getting in and would be the last to celebrate their victories.

I understand why the coarse was shut down. It still does not change the fact of how many runners were crushed by this. All those that trained so hard to run these miles only to be told that they couldn't. They stopped running and they didn't have a choice. Months, miles, and sweat all came down to Mother Nature taking control of this day and devastating thousands who had worked so damn hard. It was someones goal, someones dream, and someones journey that was taken away. I hope all those runners dig deep and realize they did not fail. I hope that they know there will be another marathon and they will be even stronger for it! Anyone who ran this race Sunday, whether three miles, twenty miles or 26.2 deserves a medal. 
189 is mine!

I want to end this on a happy note. My son and my nephew ran their first race this weekend, The Yam Scram!!! They ran their own "Half"... a half mile. This mama couldn't have been more happy and proud of these kids. To see their faces and eagerness was awesome.  I love that Run Vermont puts this on for the kids. This was truly a highlight of my weekend! Chase was thrilled he got a medal and once in the car asked when he could do it again. That's my boy!!!

In closing, I think it is important to remember that even though our bodies are amazing vessels and capable of some crazy things, we also have to be sure to listen to our bodies. We need to know when to slow down, when to walk, how to breathe and when we need to stop to stay safe. Remember, running is a gift!

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