After running Boston again this spring I was ready for a bit of a break from distance running. I thought my body deserved a nice long rest and it was refreshing to not spend my summer tied to a training calendar. I continued to run over the summer but enjoyed some shorter races like the TGA 5k and the Nantucket Tri. Now that fall is here I am ready to get back into a running routine. The first step for me to make that happen is always to get something on the calendar. This year I decided on the Nantucket Half Marathon for my fall race. I had not run a half marathon since Hyannis last February and hadn’t run 13 miles since the marathon so I started increasing mileage toward the end of the summer but a busy schedule did not allow for consistent training. Two weeks before the race I found myself struggling through a ten mile run feeling weak and completely unprepared.
I knew I could fight through the race to finish but I wanted to try and perform as well as I could. There would be no podiums or PR’s but I did set a goal of working hard and not doing the ‘lazy shuffle’ I sometimes do toward the end of a race when I struggle. With the race set on Nantucket it came with another challenge…my love of the island social scene. It was Columbus Day weekend and many of our favorite bars and restaurants were celebrating their last nights before shutting down for a couple of months. After dinner on Friday I went home to get to bed early while I knew many of my friends were out having fun. Saturday, though cold and rainy, was a big day in town. While everyone was enjoying cocktails on the dreary day, I was throwing back club soda staying strong in my commitment to pre-race sobriety. I was thrilled to find an ally in my friend Lorraine who was also racing the next day. She too had a tough run a couple of weeks before and wanted to feel her best at the starting line. Jared and I had an early dinner Saturday night (I admit I enjoyed one glass of wine) and we went home to be asleep by 10:00.
The alarm went off at 6 Sunday morning giving us plenty of time to eat a little breakfast and get ready for the 8:00 am race. The rain and clouds had cleared up and it was a beautiful sunny but cool day. Jared, just setting a new half marathon PR a couple of weeks ago, agreed to run with me and try to help me keep a faster pace. We would start out around an 8:15 pace and I would do my best to stay close to there. I would be happy as long as I was faster than an 8:30 pace.
The race started on Faregrounds Rd just a couple of miles from where we were staying. A lot of the course was similar to routes that we have run in the past and I was looking forward to what I thought would be a pleasant and mostly flat route. Just a couple miles in, the course moved on to a dirt road and then we ran within the airport property which was certainly a first for me. Most of this section was packed sand or dirt but with all the rain the night before we had to be strategic moving around puddles. There were also areas where the ground was much softer than what I am used to and this slowed me down a bit. My ankle started to feel a little achy with certain movements and I was nervous that I had rolled it. I tried to be careful not to irritate it the rest of the dirt path and hoped it wouldn’t become a problem. About half way through we made it to New South Road and more solid ground. I remembered running by there just a couple weeks before and feeling awful but this time I was still feeling strong and trying to bring my pace back down under 8:30 now that we were on pavement again. Next we would be running down Milestone Rd – a route I have become very familiar with. I have run up and down the Milestone Rd Bike Path several times trying to get a long run in on the island. There used to be these mysterious wooden zoo animals in the field known as the Middle Moors across the street from the bike path and that was the most exciting thing about the long stretch. The animals are gone now so there is nothing to look at but the road ahead.
Jared and I were still running together but I was getting tired and struggling with the hills on Milestone. Up until then we were staying within the goal pace but miles 6 and 7 were slower and when our mile 8 split said 8:52 he let me know with one look that if we were going to run together I would have to pick up the pace. I found something motivating on the ipod and dug in. Mile 10 felt better and I was committed to stepping on the gas and giving the last three miles everything I had. At mile 12 I told Jared to sprint ahead and finish strong and I wouldn’t be far behind. When he took off I set my sights on passing as many runners as I could for the last mile. First up was orange tank top girl who we had been tailing for some time, running by her I was feeling okay with this faster pace. Next was blue shirt girl who we had been running close to for almost the whole race. She was quite a bit in front of me and I wasn’t sure I could catch her but then all of sudden I was running past her. With only about a half mile to go I had really picked up speed and was closing in on red shorts guy. He was struggling and I’m sure it stung a little when I flew by him. I turned the corner onto Rugged Rd for the finish and I heard them announce my name. My watch let me know that the last full mile was a speedy 7:47 – my fastest mile for the whole race. I finished the Nantucket Half Marathon in 1:51:34 averaging an 8:31 pace gun time*.
*As there usually is, there is a pretty significant discrepancy between my watch and the race clock. The race didn’t have starting mats and there wasn’t an obvious starting line so I had no idea when to start my watch. Still, according to my timing I actually ran 13.3 miles and averaged an 8:22. Just saying…
After the race we had most of the day to enjoy the perfect weather. A big brunch with friends and then some time back at the Faregrounds to watch football before we headed home Sunday night. Trying to sleep Sunday night I was very uncomfortable. On Monday morning my legs throbbed and my hamstring ached like I had run a full marathon. The ACK Half wasn’t my fastest race but I know that worked really hard and I’m happy with my time. If I put in some more effort and training I know that I can bring my half marathon times back down below 1:50 but this was a good race for me and I’m proud that I worked so hard on the course.
Thank you to the Nantucket Triathlon Club, the race organizers and the volunteers for coordinating such a terrific race. Thank you also to our generous host and Jared for taking a break from his speedy season to pace me this race -he ended up with a 1:50:11 gun time. Congratulations to everyone who completed their races over the long weekend!
I’m making some decisions on my upcoming races including a possible 2015 marathon. What does everyone have on their calendars this fall/ winter?!