Tuesday, March 19, 2013

New Bedford Half Marathon - 2013

Two years ago I ran New Bedford for the first time, just before tearing my hip.  I was a little faster and thinner back then, but after re-reading my race report from that day, I've found that some things never change.  I was whining about my sore foot and painful stomach that were slowing me down, which sounds eerily familiar to how I've felt leading up to this race.  It's kind of sad that after two years, I still haven't gotten a handle on these issues.  The biggest difference this year is that, unlike two years ago, this year I was more than prepared.  Boston training is peaking at this stage, so this 13 mile run is nice and short!  Never thought I'd say that!
This year I went into the race looking for redemption.  I had disappointed myself two years ago because of my stomach problems and never really got to enjoy the race.  I was so sick that Hiroshi and I never got to enjoy anything after the race.  We immediately hopped into the car and high-tailed it home, me turning green and rolling down the window for fresh air.  We still laugh about it.
My goal for today's race was to run it faster than a training run and beat my time from two years ago (2:02 something).  I prepared well for this race.  I ate well all week, shutting down vegetables and other fiber by Friday night.  I hydrated well by drinking tons of water all week and no alcohol.  I got ridiculous amounts of sleep (8-9 hours a night).  On Saturday I did almost nothing but read a book, and then took my horse out for a little light ride in the afternoon.  Nothing strenuous.  Nothing would foil my plans.
Despite my first encounter with this race, I was really looking forward to running it again.  This is a great race, very organized, tons of crowd support, and the course is awesome.  I consider this course to be a condensed version of Boston.  There is a long stretch of downhill running in the early miles of the race, and an uphill at the end when you're good and tired.  And of course, down along the water you can be sure to endure some serious winds, and today was no exception.
I carpooled to New Bedford with Kerri (so weird that Hiroshi never called, haha).  The race doesn't start until 11am, but since I wasn't 100% sure where I was going and I have a phobia about navigating through cities, I wanted to get there early.  Kerri and I made great time getting there, arriving at the YMCA just before 9am, just in time to snag one of the last parking spots in the lot.  When we started opening the car doors and struggled to push them open against the winds, we knew we were in for a world of hurt.  We went inside, grabbed our numbers, and hung out inside the gymnasium while other club members arrived.  Crowds started getting really thick so we decided to make our way to a restroom and then head back to the car.  Back outside, the wind continued to howl and we opted to stick it out inside the car for a while before heading to the start.  It is at this time that I should have put my phone away.  If I had, I might not have seen a couple of text messages come through that I wish I hadn't seen, that really stressed me out.  Angry and a bundle of nerves, I decided it was time to head to the start line.  On the way, we'd stop in the porta-john line.  We were horrified to see the line spanning the length of a city block, and wondered if 30 minutes was going to be enough time to get to the start line.  Leave it to me to arrive two hours before the race and still nearly miss the start.  We got to the start line just in the knick of time, but couldn't get into our pace area.  I think we were stuck in the 14 min/mile section, but at least we found Ronnie.  He was pretty easy to spot with his awesome St. Patty's Day hat.
The horn started, the race was off, and after a couple minutes of standing still the crowd slowly shuffled across the start line.  We started off at a pretty decent clip, not too fast, and Kerri, Ronnie and I stuck together.  Around the 2 mile mark, Ronnie made a quick burst past a few runners, Kerri stuck with him, and I just couldn't be bothered.  I stuck to my planned pace and enjoyed the run.  Starting so close to the back has its advantages.  Psychologically it was pretty awesome passing so many people!  I remembered there being a hill at mile 3 and mile 12, and in a sick sort of way I was looking forward to them.  I wanted to prove to myself that the hill work I have done this season has been worth it.  I was definitely pleased with the way I powered up the hills at mile 3, passing tons of other runners, and by the time I reached the top I had finally warmed up.  And the best part about being at the top was that I knew the next 4 miles were downhill, and then another 3 miles after that were flat, before the next hill.  I sped up a bit, letting my legs just roll down the descent.  My foot felt totally fine which made me so happy, and the sun almost felt warm.  I even rolled up my sleeves for a little while!  About halfway down the hill I felt nearly toasty and decided to chuck my $1 throwaway gloves.  I heard someone yelling my name and turned in time to see Jackie, Hiroshi's fiancee, waving to me.  How exciting!  I hardly ever see a familiar spectator during a race, and that was so great!  I truly enjoyed running this race, seeing the spectators, all the different dogs on the side of the road, the St Patty's Day house parties, and the different costumes. 

La dee da, feelin' groovy, definitely beating 2:02. Maybe break 2:00!
 I hit the bottom of the hill and ran along the coastline, soaking in the great views.  Then the wind picked up.  The "flat" felt hard after running with the benefit of a downhill for so many miles.  Then my stomach rolled over with a nasty bout of nausea.  This isn't happening.  Yes, it was happening.  I had passed a row of porta-johns thinking I was fine, then realized I wasn't.  I marched along as quickly as possible, determined to find somewhere to make a pit stop.  I wasn't happy about having to stop, but if it meant having a strong finish and feeling good at the end, I could deal with that.  Just as I spotted another row of porta-johns, I hear my name.  Hiroshi had caught up to me.  "Jill! The hills are coming! The hills are your friend! How you doing?" he shouted. "I gotta pooooooo!" I exclaimed, and bolted to the toilet.  There was a line to use the facilities where I got a chance to practice my deep breathing while trying to calm the cramping.  Finally I got in there, and man I really did need to go!  So imagine how it felt, after nearly crapping my pants, to be heckled by the runners in line behind me waiting to go.  "Hurry up... the rest of us gotta go too ya know!"  I wouldn't say that it was necessarily directed at me per se, since there were 3 toilets, but it sure made me feel like crap.  HA! 

You can see where the pace started to falter, then got serious, and so on...
 The good thing about the pit stop was that afterwards I felt heroic.  It was like I was just starting a run fresh.  I booked it out of the porta-john (kindly holding the door for the lady that just heckled me) and settled into a good pace.  I was encouraged seeing some people that I had already passed just a few miles ago, so I didn't really lose that much time.  The mile 12 hill finally surfaced, and I don't remember it being anything like this last time.  I remember last time I had to talk myself up every step of that hill.  I wanted to quit so bad.  It had been agony.  This year it didn't seem bad at all.  Of course, I didn't feel sick this time, and I was in better shape.  The wind, on the other hand, was brutal.  The last few miles of the course included a bitterly cold head wind, which seemed like a cruel practical joke going up the hill at mile 12.
Strong finish!

One of my favorite things about running and racing is looking at my Garmin activity afterwards, seeing the split times, and checking out the elevation.  For some reason, once we hit sea level, the Garmin couldn't register any elevation.  I thought this was a problem just with my watch, but a search on Garmin Connect revealed that other runners complained about this too.  I took the liberty of correcting it.

You can see here the life-like self portrait of me, complete with flames shooting out of my feet, powering up the hill
 I crossed the finish line, without intestinal cramping, in 2:05:37.  Ronnie was there to give me a big hug and tell me how someone handed him a beer, which he drank, while running up the hill at mile 12.  Kerri was there too, and told me that she heard from Jackie who heard from Hiroshi that I had to poop.  We made a beeline to the car to change into dry shirts, and then headed to the beer garden for a beer and soup.  The piping hot soup really hit the spot, and we all relived the best and worst parts about the race.  And as usual we got a good laugh about my delicate bowels, and I have promised to try even harder to get this straightened out.  Preferably before April 15th! 


  1. Congrats on the half and boy do I feel your pain! More often than not I have to stop during a race. often multiple times. I have learned better to just suck it up and go vs stomach cramping and scary oh my god I am going to crap my pants situations.
    Best part is my Half PR - is WITH a bathroom stop. Go figure! Hoping to take down that 1:53 this weekend...and not need a pit stop haha.

    1. Thanks! That's awesome that you PR'd with a pit stop. That might be my next goal :) Good luck this weekend!