"...you gonna get lost to find yourself
Know you gonna hold on for something else
'Cause you got a life time to work it out
So you gonna get lost to find yourself."
~Bearson, 'Get Lost'
Black Goose back in 2015, and this winter he decided he was ready to do another one. I suggested the Greenstride Earth, Rock, Run, a race I've done for the past three years that's organized by my friend Eli Bailin who, along with his crew, always puts on a fantastic event mainly because his philosophy as a race director is runners come first. Done and done. I did have a March marathon on my schedule but figured I'd be fully recovered by late April. I was also doing Boston as a guide for Team With A Vision (TWAV), and while, yes it's still a full marathon, I'd be doing it a very comfortable pace and thus it wouldn't take me out the way a marathon does when I put in a full effort. So we signed up and forgot about it. Then along came March. I flew down to Virginia, ran 20 miles of the Shamrock Marathon and, much to my dismay, ended up having to drop out due to a calf strain. After a few days off, I eased back into training and when things were feeling good again I decided to run another marathon to try and hit the goal that I'd set for myself at Shamrock. To my good fortune, the Greenstride Cheap Marathon was taking place on Sunday, April 8th, which was exactly three weeks after Shamrock, so just enough time to build some mileage back up and then get a mini-taper in before lining up again. The only minor issue was that I'd then be running Boston a mere two weeks after that, but I was so eager to save my spring training and hungry to race again that I figured it was worth it. As I write this, I realize how borderline insane this sounds, but that's kind of the way I fly these days, so it's no big shocker. After my Shamrock disaster, I successfully finished the Cheap Marathon, which I was thrilled about. Then my TWAV partner, William Greer, and I also successfully swam, finished and survived Boston (that's a good story, but a long one, so read it when you have some time on your hands), and poof, it was time for the Earth, Rock, Run with Jeff. I won't lie and tell you I wasn't a little worried about running a half after having done almost three marathons in a one month window. I could tell my coach wasn't thrilled about the plan either. At the same time, he also understood that it was something he wouldn't be able to talk me out of, so he agreed to it. I believe his exact words were, I definitely don't want you racing it. As we get closer, we can discuss whether it makes sense to do it as a workout or just float along and enjoy the scenery. Which worked for me. So now it was the week of April 23rd and I was running daily but that was it. No workouts. Just lots and lots of miles. Actually, more miles than I expected given that I'd just run Boston. And the Cheap Marathon. And Shamrock. Sixty one to be exact. Part of me wondered if my coach was doing this on purpose so that I would go into the half feeling somewhat tired and thus be forced to hold back a little. Yes, this also sounds crazy. But, I wouldn't put it past him because he knows me really well and he also knows that runners, in general, have a really hard time "taking it easy" on race day. Fast forward to race weekend. On Saturday, I spent the entire day on my feet at the MA State Relay meet with my high school track team.
Hanging w/ Eli
Jeff and I went back up the car and he sat and chilled inside while I went for a quick warm up. No warmup for Jeff. When I got back we both ditched our layers and made our way down to the start. I did manage to grab a quick pre-race shot with him. He's not a fan of photos or social media in general, so he was a trooper for bearing with me and my ridiculous traditions.
Pre-race with Jeff
I remember the course being hilly from when I ran it the year before. This year it would be the same route but we'd be running it in the opposite direction. I think it was because the traffic situation was better this way, but not 100% sure. Regardless, I knew we'd be tackling the same hills in reverse, but I was mentally prepared and not really sweating it. Jeff and I wished each other good luck, we don't run together for these, and lined up separately. It was sunny for a brief moment at the start but shortly after we got going at 9am the clouds rolled in and the rain started to fall. If you read my Boston story or were even remotely clued into the weather we had to deal with during the marathon, you can understand why I am still emotionally traumatized and forever scarred by rain. So, as we took off, all I could do was chuckle at the situation. Fortunately, it wasn't nearly as cold, it wasn't coming down too hard and there was no wind, so it was actually quite nice. Still funny though. As you may also know, I don't trust my Apple Watch for pacing anymore so I wore my Garmin instead. But, I made a game time decision to just track my run on Strava rather than use my watch for time. My logic here being that Strava would give me my splits but I wouldn't be staring at my watch the whole time and thus I wouldn't be focused on my pace and could just run by feel. For the first few miles I felt awesome. My pace was hovering right around 6:40, which was a little faster than planned, but not much. I stuck with it since my effort felt controlled and my legs were responding nicely. I caught up to a gentleman, whose name I later learned is Paul, around mile 5 and we started to chat.
Paul: Great job.
Me: Thanks. You, too. But, I'm having Boston flashbacks.
Paul: Ha ha. I did it the year it was 85 degrees. Not as bad as this past year. But still pretty bad.
Me: Yea. Heat is a close second to what we ran in. But, still, ours was worse!
Paul: I'm using this as a training run for Grandma's (marathon).
Me: Nice. Do you have a goal time?
Paul: I'd like to slide in just under 3 hours. Maybe 2:55.
Me: Awesome. That's right where I'm sitting right now. I have a 3:00:04 and would like to go under 3 if I can. But I'm worried my window of opportunity is closing.
Paul: I don't know. I'm 59 and I haven't really slowed down that much.
Me: Wow. That is amazing. Totally gives me hope. I'm really inspired.
Paul: Thanks! I'm actually surprised your legs are bouncing back this quickly after Boston.
Me: Yea, well I'm just out here to have fun and go with the flow.
Paul: Well, you're flowing pretty well at the moment.
Me: Thanks. Going to put my tunes back on now.
Paul: Okay. Have a great race.
Me: Thanks again. You're killing it. Keep it up.
We ran together for a while, taking turns leading and then he scooted ahead of me around mile 8 which I was totally fine with. I kept him in sight, but just did my own thing, my pace going down a bit on the uphills and then recovering nicely on the downs. Having just done so many marathons, knowing I only had to tackle 13.1 miles was a huge mental relief for me. And by the time I got to mile 10 and realized that I only had a mere 3 miles left I was almost giddy. Mile 11 was a steady uphill climb, which was a bit brutal, but I knew I could fly down after that so I just dug in and held on.
(photo by Eli B.)
Finally, I could see the main center of town in front of me so I gave it some gas and pushed it into the finish. The cop who was riding next to me let me know that I was the first woman, something I hadn't really been aware of and was really excited about. I was also thrilled with how good I felt and just stupidly excited to be done in general. And the cool part? I finished in 1:26:16; a personal best by about 25 seconds which is kind of nuts given how my spring has unfolded. But here's the thing. I have now run my fastest 5K and half marathons to date at races where I've lined up with zero expectations other than to have a good time. Both happened after having run multiple marathons in a very short window, so at a time when I assumed my body had little or nothing to give. And both times I have been completely floored by the outcome. Should I be, though? Take the time goal out, remove the stress and pressure of performing at a specific level and just run to run and look what happens. I honestly ran this half with a smile on my face the entire time. I was out there just enjoying myself and happy to be able to do what I love. I reluctantly post the below photo because of how goofy I look. But look at the smile on my face. If that doesn't say it all, I don't know what does. The lesson is pretty clear here. Remember why you do it in the first place and free yourself mentally once in a while and magical things can happen.
Dorky finish photo
For the record, Jeff crushed it. He also finished with a personal best and truly enjoyed being out there. On the car ride home he told me he smiled the enter time. No joke. He admittedly had as much fun, maybe more so, than me. It just goes to show that regardless of what kind of runner you are, running in general, along with the moods it can stir and the experiences that it provides can be pretty damn powerful. And not a day goes by where I don't stop and realize how lucky I am that I get to do it. It's also worth nothing that Paul, that guy I chatted with during the race, finished 2nd overall with a 1:25. The guy who beat him was 32 years old. On top of that, I came in 5th overall behind Paul, the winner and two other guys who were both in their twenties. So, yea. At this point I'm feeling pretty good about the fact that I'm a seasoned runner at age 43. And that my goals, which I know are lofty, area still very within reach. I'm excited, inspired and ready to rock. Thank you, running.
Listen to this:
Get Lost by Bearson (feat. Ashe)