On April 29th, I was lucky enough to run the second annual Ipswitch Ale Half Marathon in Ipswitch, Massachusetts.
And I don’t say “lucky enough” lightly.
On Thursday night at 9pm, all the lights in my neighborhood went out, and stayed out for 24 hours. I spent all 24 of those hours deeply concerned about how I was going to accommodate my friend who was coming to stay and be my race day buddy, and whether or not all the food in my fridge was going to rot. I was also having a bad digestive week, and having to eat weird stuff while living electricity free was not helpful.
I woke up early on Saturday and told myself that I felt great! (hint: I didn’t) I hadn’t gotten much sleep that night, but sometimes I have trouble sleeping before races, so I chalked it up to nerves. I made myself some oatmeal with a banana and peanut butter for breakfast; I typically have 2 eggs, toast, and a banana, but I’d had to throw away my eggs since they’d gone un-refridgerated for 24 hours in eighty degree weather. (hint: don’t eat new stuff before a race) My stomach was upset all morning, and I ended up taking an immodium before my favorite race buddy, Sara, and I headed to Ipswitch.
Ipswitch is about 1.5 hours from Boston, but it feels like a different world. It’s a coastal community along the north shore of Massachusetts, known for its beautiful beaches and historical landmarks. I sipped at a new flavor of electrolyte powder and water on the drive, and it was gross. (double hint: DON’T EAT NEW STUFF BEFORE A RACE)
I was nursing a shin injury so I KT-Taped my leg, but realized too late that I had forgotten my compression socks. (Hint: Pack your race-day stuff meticulously) I told myself that I wouln’t miss them in the muggy weather and moved on.
Check in and bib pickup went smoothly. It was already in the upper seventies as we lined up at the starting line. I’d seen that there were highs of 80+ forecasted for that day, but I hadn’t thought they’d actually happen.
The race started right on time, and I felt so fast and strong as I crossed the starting mat. I set my apple watch to “run” mode and hustled onward. I was hoping to get my first sub-2 hour time during this race, so I wanted to keep track.
The first mile takes you straight up the biggest hill of the course and past the beautiful, historical crane estate. I typically love hills (because I’m a bostonian weirdo) and was smiling for probably this whole time. That said, a 150+ foot climb and descent in the first mile of a race is exhausting. I held a solid 9:00 min/mile pace, though, and loved the little bit of sightseeing.
I was already feeling hot and thirsty at mile 2.5, and was so excited to see race buddy Sara there with water! This was a small town race, so there were only 3 planned water stops. With direct sunlight, 60% humidity, and my ongoing tummy troubles, I could tell that I might need a little more hydration than what the organizers had provided. I pushed out a 8:50 min/mile pace until about mile 5, and then allowed myself to slow down a tad to the 9:00 miles I’d planned to run.
I stopped for water at Mile 4, and was sad that the race organizers were only giving out water at this stop and no sports drinks. I often don’t feel like taking my gels during races, so I lean heavily on the carbs and electrolytes in those little cups of gatorade I grab along the way.
I saw Sara again at mile 6, which was wonderful! I ran on and hit the halfway mark at 55 minutes; on track to meet my goal. I grabbed a bit of water and pushed onwards!
This is when the heat started to really get to me. I looked down and realized that my KT Tape was peeling off my sweaty legs, and I started to feel a sense of dread every time another rolling hill loomed on the horizon. I started feeling a little nauseous, as well. I kept checking my Apple watch and feeling stressed out because I couldn’t figure out whether I could still make my goal time happen or not. I started getting cramping in my lower abdomen, and really started thinking about how wonderflu life would be without running.
My pace dropped from a 9 minute mile to about a 10 minute mile over miles 7-10. There was a water station at mile 8, and I knew I should take a gel as well, but I had a feeling I might vomit if I did.
Miles 10-13 were just as rough. I pushed my pace back towards that 9 minute per mile pace, but it totally sucked. The course went over a few hills right in the end, and there’s nothing like the self-doubt that fills your mind while running up a hill when you’re already tired beyond belief. There were no water stations along this stretch of the race, and my abdomen was killing me. I felt panicked, and I just wanted to be done.
I turned the corner onto the final stretch of the race, and saw the clock click from 1:59 to 2:00. Since there had only been 500 runners and I’d been at the front of the pack, I knew that I hadn’t met my sub-2 hour goal. I was bummed. So, so bummed.
My official finishing time was 2:00:23; less than 30-seconds away from my goal.
My race buddy Sara and my friend Mayuri came out to the finish to find me. I was sweaty and gross and downtrodden, but they handed me a pair of dry clothes and a water bottle and seemed so legitimately proud of me that I started to think maybe I shouldn’t beat myself up so much. Hey, it was still a PR! We wandered over to the nearby beach, where I used the frigid waters of the Atlantic as my own personal ice bath and allowed the power of great snacks and great friends to cure me of as much disappointment as possible.
The course was mostly rolling hills, and took me through marshlands, past idyllic New England farmhouses, and through adorable neighborhoods. There weren’t many spectators, so music and the will to survive became my prime motivator.
I typically love smaller races, but this one was really hard for me. I wasn’t feeling my best, and I was completely filled with self-doubt. Because my digestion had been all the fritz all the week previous, I really needed a lot more hydration. It was also one of the first really warm days so far this year; it was still icy just one month before this race, and I’d been wearing my thermal under armor and earmuffs on long runs just two weeks previous. I wasn’t ready for the warm weather yet; it takes time to adjust.
I learned a million lessons from this race. I wish that I was able to see it for its positives; I PR’d! My friends were awesome! The scenery was stunning!
But unfortunately I remember it for the negatives: the pain, the sweat, and the disappointment.
Have you ever had a rough race? What did you do to come back from it?