Wednesday, May 4, 2016


 This past Saturday, my good bud and running teammate, Kirsten H., and I headed out to Andover, MA for the Earth, Rock, Run half marathon; one of several events in the the Greenstride Race Series.  For the last half Kirsten and I did together back in March, I was easing back into racing after having just completed the LA Marathon weeks before and Kirsten, who's currently in the shape of her life, was going for the PR; which she took handily.  This time around our roles were reversed.  Kirsten, who will be running the Maine Coast Marathon in two weeks, was planning to hold back a bit and use the race as a training run and I would be pushing hard as I'd had plenty of time to rest, recover and get back into race mode since February.  Game on.  The race was set to start at 10:00am, which to be honest is kind of brutal as we are used to getting up early and rolling out at the crack of dawn.  But, at the same time, it was nice to wake up, make some coffee and take my time getting ready for a change.  Glass half-full.  Kirsten scooped me up at 8:15 and we cruised out to Smolak Farm, the location of the race start, pulling into the dirt parking lot right around 9:00.  The weather was perfect for running; nice and cool with plenty of cloud coverage.  Our plan was to grab our race numbers, throw our stuff back in the car and then head out for a quick warm up before making our way over to the line.  As we walked up the dirt/rock path that lead to the main event tent, we passed the Racewire timing table and I found myself thinking we can't possibly be finishing on this terrain, can we?  And then I let that thought fade as I focused on getting myself ready.  We grabbed our bibs and shirts and then quickly said hi to Eli, the race director and mastermind behind the Greenstride series.  Both of us know him from past work/race related encounters, so we caught up, met his adorable 4 year old daughter and shamelessly noted that we wanted to get our paws on the Greenstride Trucker hat he was sporting.  He smiled and told us we just needed to place in our age groups to pick one up.  We laughed in response but damned if we weren't going to go for the AG win after hearing that.  We said our goodbyes and then headed across the farm for our warm up.  I took a minute to note how calm and peaceful the farm scene was, which is always a nice thing to do when you're about to endure a sufferfest.  Around 9:45 we headed to the race start, did a little stretching, took our standard pre-race pic and then lined up with the rest of the runners.

We chatted with a lovely woman who was wearing a bib with the name KEVIN on her back, which I thought was a bit odd.  Turns out, she had her own bib on the front.  Her husband, who was standing next to her, was injured and couldn't run so this was her way of running with him.  I thought that was pretty cool.  Finally, it was go time.  My goal for this race was to try and run steady between 6:35-6:40 pace and finish around 1:26.  Up to this point, I'd been feeling strong, hitting my workouts right on target, and really enjoying my training, so I was fired up and ready to rock.  Eli had told us that the course we fast and relatively flat, with a few gentle rollers, so I had a good chance of hitting my goal if all went well.  I started right off with a group of about 10 people, crossing the first mile at 6:38.  Perfecto.  The group hung together, taking turns leading for a few miles, everyone smiling and incredibly friendly.  Only in the running world.  I love that.  The miles passed quickly and I was feeling good.  6:42, 6:36, 6:35, 6:37....and so on.  I've mentioned this before, but when you've recently run a marathon, my latest having been Boston in April, thirteen miles can feel insanely short comparatively.  Getting to mile 5 and knowing I only had 8 to go rather than 21, well, you get it, right?  So, I kept at it, hitting each mile right on the nose.  Until mile 10.  I'd been running solo for most of the miles up to this point.  I was getting tired and my mind started to become my opponent, which is never a good thing.  I had three measly miles to go and without realizing it, I kind of zoned out a little and lost track of my pace.  Mile 10 was a 6:46, not too far off, but then mile 11 was a 6:53.  Oops.  Thankfully, I caught up to a young chap who I decided to try and stay with for the rest of the race if possible.  Between having someone to run with and knowing I was almost done, I was able to get back on pace for mile 12 and then to eek out a 6:35 for mile 13.  Remember the dirt road in the beginning, the one I didn't think we'd have to tackle?  Yea, that was the finish chute.  I was really excited to be done, but I was also scared to death that I was going to trip as the path was downhill and there were rocks and ruts everywhere.  So, I kind of pulled back on the reigns and danced around the potholes to finish without falling, crossing the line in 1:27:24.  

I'm not going to lie, it was really fun to break the tape.  The guy I'd run neck and neck with for the last couple miles offered his hand for a high five which I gave him and then returned with a hug.  You just can't put a price on the support you get from your fellow runners out on the course and I know, whether he realized it or not, that this guy was a big reason behind the fact that I had been able to get myself back in check for those final two miles.  Two young kids were handing out medals and this one little guy said, Yay!  You're the first girl.  You can have TWO medals.  I laughed and thanked him but told him I was all good with one.  He's my new favorite for having referred to me as a girl.  At this point it was starting to rain so I bundled up and headed back to the line to quietly sit under a spectator's umbrella and wait for Kirsten.  And though she had planned to "take it easy" she still came across the line in a killer time, just seconds off from her PR having just run a 20+ miler and a hard workout earlier that same week.  Did I mention how strong she is these days??!!  We slowly made our way over to the snack table....that's right.  Snacks.  Each runner got a tote bag full of snacks.  What??  We also saw people eating ice cream which looked insanely delicious.  We found Eli and thanked him for the awesome race and all that he'd done to make it run so smoothly.  The man is good at what he does.

He let us know that we, too, could get ice cream as we had a ticket on our race bib that we could trade in for the sweet treat.  Hot DOG!  There is something about seeing a table like this after you've just run your brains out.  I found myself thinking how delicious it looked while at the same time noting how soft and fluffy it seemed, ideal for laying down and taking a rest.  I might have been a bit overtired at this point.  Not to worry, though, I did not, in fact, lie down on the ice cream table.

After our sugar fix, we wandered over to the results table to see how Kirsten had placed.  Not only did she find that she had finished in the top 25 for women, but that she'd placed third in her age group, thus guaranteeing her the cool trucker hat.  BOOYAH!  We checked in at the awards table to see about our prizes.  For taking first overall,  I was given a Greenstride backpack AND a trucker hat.  I also received a cash prize, which doesn't happen very often and for which I was beyond thrilled.  Kirsten was quick to note that I would be buying our post-race coffees on the way home.  Fair enough.  We were almost stupidly fired up about our new hats, but we'd earned them fair and square, which is definitely part of the reason we were so psyched to be taking them home.

Eventually, we made our way back over to the car, both of us now sufficiently frozen and eager to make a much-needed stop at Starbucks.  Kirsten was very pleased with her race.  I'll just be honest and tell you that I was very happy about my win, but I really wished I'd run a better time.  I'll also come right out and confess that I was simultaneously annoyed with myself for not being able to separate the two and just be proud of what I'd done.  Come ON, Rebecca.  Kirsten and I got our mochas and headed home, both of us a bit punch-drunk by the time we got back to Winchester, especially Kirsten who was throwing out zingers like nobody's business.  I was dying, almost in tears it was so funny.  And that's the thing, really.  These races...the training, the drives to and from, the swag and all the good stuff that happens in between including the race itself, all of them are such a blast when we do them together.  Sure, I was a little frustrated, but by the time we got home, I was laughing my ass off and already thinking about our next adventure.  And, later that night, I went back and read this post, yet again, giving myself that much needed remind that I do love to run and that every success, big or small, ALL of it matters.  #TEAMBACON

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