Storm the castle

Yesterday was the Castle Awards half marathon in Seekonk / Rehoboth, Mass. 

Oddly – this was one of the first times I’ve run a half marathon without really training for it. 

I got my 2:00 half in April and my marathon PR in May. And my focus right now is on my Ultra.  I also haven’t done speedwork since the end of April. 

All that combined means this was less a race and more a training run. An “accountability” half that had ensured I resumed training after the marathon and didn’t slack too much after it. 

So…no pressure. No real time goal. No carefully planning my outfit a week in advance. 

And I was totally cool with all of that until Friday. When I made the mistake of looking at least year’s results for this race. And seeing that I might have a chance to place my age group. 

Yeah, I know that the field changes and this year wouldn’t necessarily be the same last year.  But all it took was that small glimmer of hope to turn this into something a little more serious. 

I set a goal of 2:05. Figured that was something I could pull off if I felt good. 

And I did my usual pre-race weekend routine. Pad Thai friday for dinner (and again Saturday lunch). Bottle of smart water on Saturday and only one glass of wine. 

And right before we watched the Belmont Stakes I told myself if American Pharaoh wins, it’s a sign that I’m going to race well too. (Yeah, I’m like that. Lol)  gotta say – watching him take the triple crown was AWESOME!! 

So Sunday I toed that starting line with confidence. And a gel tucked in my hip pocket just in case. 

I love these smaller races. There’s room to move and you don’t feel crowded. In fact there are stretches of road where you’re almost alone. And that helps with the “it’s just a sunday long run” mentality. 

The weather was perfect. The course was lovely. Past some historical houses and farms and goats. And just enough hills to make it interesting. 

I made the decision to not look at my watch. To run by feel. Because that usually works well for me. 

I had started somewhere in the middle of the group and proceeded to pick off runner after runner. Always a confidence boost. 

And the miles flew by. And almost to mile 5 we looped into a neighborhood and up a killer hill (but knowing we’d come back down it later held promise) and the pack in front of me that I’d been keeping an eye on appeared to  vanish.  Just one or two runners a ways up in front of me.  Loved it. Because I could just go my pace.

And I followed this one woman for the next couple of miles. Getting a little closer and then falling a little behind. Because while I eat hills like they’re skittles, she was stronger on the downs. 

And around mile 7.5 I sat just behind her shoulder and matched my pace to hers. Because it felt a perfect pace. And at 7.75 I took my gel. Because I was getting a nice crust on my hairline and knew it was a smart idea.  And just as we came up to 8 I pulled alongside this woman and started chatting. 

Her name was Jen. She is a 52 year old mother of 4 who doesn’t look either. She is fit and strong and this was her first half. And she was kicking asphalt. 

We spent the next 2 1/2 miles together. Pacing each other and chatting. So fun!!!

Until a long slow steep curving uphill arrived. And I ducked into the front (because traffic) and just kept climbing and she feel a little back. But I knew she was going to be fine and make her goal so I didn’t worry. 

And at mile 11 we turned to a glorious long downhill. And I passed about 4 people.  Just opened my stride and went. And hello perfectlyplaced  photographer (can’t wait to see those pics) and then the turn back to the finish. 

Confession – I looked at my watch when mile 12 beeped. And saw the sub-9 pace and smiled. Because I knew at that moment. Without even knowing my overall time that I had my 2:05. 

And at the mile 13 sign I turned left into the woods and some gorgeous hard packed dirt and kicked. 

And high-fived my hunny. And some other enthusiastic fan who cheered and stuck his hand out. 

And then, and only then did I look at the clock. And crossed the finish with a grin a mile wide. And a 2:01:06 finish. 

Because some times it just all comes together. 

And even though your long training runs have been slower and involved breaks, your legs remember racing. And when you pin on that magic numbered white square, they know exactly what they are supposed to do. 🙂

Happy Monday! And happy running. 

Side notes:

* when they call a course “fairly flat” they LIE

* the woman I ran with? I got to watch her cross while her family cheered her on. She finished in 2:02. Amazing job Jen – hope to see you out there again. 

* I didn’t place my age group. Because I have a very competitive one.  I was 8th of 16. But…I was only a minute and a half from third place. 5 of us mere seconds apart. So I am very happy with 8th. 



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