Sunday, June 28, 2009

29th Annual Stratton Faxon Fairfield Half Marathon - 2:18:05

After today's Fairfield Half Marathon, I can honestly say I'm half way to completing this goal of competing in and completing the Hartord Marathon. However, the idea of running a second 13.1 miles that day will be freakin' tough.

I had the goal of finishing between 2:15:00 and 2:25:00 in today's race. I accomplished this, but I can think of so many things I did that cost me significant time. I stopped and walked at every water station. I walked the last 50 yards going up two hills. I only ate a bagel going into the race. I didn't properly stretch. What makes this encouraging is it appears I'm on pace to complete the full marathon in under 4:30:00. I could never complete it in that time today, but considering I ran my first mile just over two months ago, I'm on the right track.

There was never a point in the 13.1 miles that I said to myself," what the heck am I thinking?" I never swore to never do this again and I never hit a wall in the race. I credit staying well hydrated, which was important because it was about 85 and HOT, and in taking advantage of the GU Vanilla Bean Energy Gel station just before the 7 mile point.

I only tried the gel once before. It was a couple miles into the Iron Horse 10K and I hated it. It gave me a cramp and tasted like jung. However, as my long-distance long distance trainers (affectionately known as "THE")commented in a previous post, there is a time and a place for the gel. I found my time was right around Mile 7. It didn't go down very well but taken with water and some electrolytes, it wasn't too bad. I also found that about three minutes later I was in an all out sprint for the next mile and a half. This sudden burst of energy cost me a couple miles later, but I found that it was exactly the burst I needed at the time I needed it. I'm gonna test the gels some more as training goes on, but I think they will be well worth the investment.

There were 3116 people competing in the Half and I finished 2012. I ran at a pace of 10:39/mile. This is much slower as a whole compared to other races but considering about 500 people finished in the five minutes before me I felt I was staying with the crowd throughout the race. If I didn't stop at every water station, I am convinced I could have taken four or five minutes off the final time. What also needs to be considered is how slow the first mile or two were. With everyone starting at the same time and running down a two-lane road, it was a slow, crowded first 5k before it opened up. This race was incredibly well organized and was a beautiful course. It took you through Fairfield, Southport, past Fairfield Country Club and along the shoreline. There were some difficult hills, but I decided I wasn't gonna try and be a hero on them. The homes and the scenery were incredible and their were hundreds if not thousands of volunteers along the course. There were three times that amount of spectators. It amazes me how communities come out in support of these races. People were standing outside spraying the runners with water, kids were banging pots and pans and high fiving whoever would extend a hand, bands were playing at intersections in two or three different sections. It's incredible considering all we did was litter their streets with paper cups and hold up traffic for hours on the nicest morning of the month.

The race started and ended at Jennings Beach. There were bands, enough food to feed an army, thousands of people and medals being handed out to every competitor. I'm a little tight in the calves right now and I felt a little pain in my right knee and ankle at one point, but I'm feeling pretty good physically considering it was almost double any run I have ever done (minus the '99 Boston Marathon- which doesn't count).

When I ran my first mile on April 21, I could have never imagined running a half-marathon by July 1. I can guarantee this won't be my last before the marathon in October. I think I'm gonna try and incorporate any half marathons into my long training runs as time goes on. The atmosphere for these races is great, the courses are fun and the other runners are cordial and supportive. I can't wait for the next one.

The official race photos are here.

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