Thursday, November 28, 2013

A very, very Happy Thanksgiving.

As I wait for my brussels sprouts to soften and the bacon to sizzle, I thought I'd take a moment to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving and list some things I am very thankful for this year (because...why not?). This year I am especially thankful for my supportive and extremely understanding family who have been nothing but wonderful during a difficult and transitional year for me. For my very dear friends, both old and new, who know just how to make me feel up on a down day and always help me keep things in perspective. And lastly, for all I have been able to experience this year, from moving back to Vermont, to finding a new job, followed by another job and finally to an unbelievably amazing apartment with the most welcoming new roommate and everything else in between (weddings, marathons, more marathons, trips, new running groups, old running groups...I could go on forever). 

I hope everyone is enjoying a peaceful and delicious Thanksgiving, whether it be with friends or family, and even though it's just us four this year, I couldn't be happier to be where I am. 

Happy Thanksgiving! 

And in no particular order, some pictures of some things that I'm thankful for.

And now it's time to eat! 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Casleton Half Marathon Recap

 (Side note: I started this race report over a week ago and am finally getting back to it. Turns out starting a full time job and moving all in the same week leaves one too tired to blog). 

On Sunday I was fortunate enough to have the morning off from work for the first Sunday in awhile and decided it was the perfect opportunity to head south for a half marathon! Saturday night I might have stayed up too late watching the World Series, but woke up before the sun, picked up my friend Paul and by 6:30 we were on our way to Castleton for the first annual Castleton Half Marathon! (I will mention that Paul was finishing off a 100 mile week with this race and I'm still in awe that he completed it - I felt like I was running all the time last week and only hit 44 miles).

We arrived with plenty of time to spare after making one pitstop at Dunkin Donuts for some last minute carbo-loading donuts. We found the race start area very easily and got our bibs/t-shirts before heading back to the car for some last minute wardrobe adjustments and to stash our layers for after the race.

Soon enough the race directors told everyone to head over to the starting area on the soccer field and all 75 of us moseyed on over and congregated near the sidelines. There was also a 5K option at this race, however they were starting at a different location on the field as not to confuse us all.

After all 75 of us were in the correct place, the count down began and we were off! I had decided last minute to bring along my music and had queued up some Disney tunes for the first couple of miles as I had planned on running easier for the first portion of the race and to take it from there. The first section of the race was along a grassy rail trail in the woods and was completely flat. It was a pretty narrow path, however with a smaller race field it didn't feel cramped and passing other runners was not difficult at all. I took it pretty easy for the first two miles and tried not to look at my Garmin as I was feeling slightly sluggish and didn't want to be discouraged by a slower pace.

After about two miles I decided to take a pee break and found a spot off the trail in the woods to relieve myself. Feeling much better I decided to stop my music and enjoy the scenery/natural setting a little bit more. Almost immediately I felt that I had picked up the pace and was passing a couple of runners and feeling pretty good while doing it. Still being early in the race I reminded myself to take it easy (remembering I had heard about some hills between miles 4 - 8 and wanted to make sure I had some energy left for those). I chatted with a couple guys who had traveled up from Massachusetts for the race (their running group gives prizes for completing a race in every New England state so they were crossing Vermont off the list!). Soon enough we were at the end of the rail trail (Mile 4) and hit our first aid station. I had decided to carry my handheld water bottle so I didn't need to stop at this water station but the volunteers were very friendly and asked me if I needed anything (thanks!).

^^prime Vermont scenery right there

The next couple of miles were along a hard packed dirt road with a few small rolling hills. Since I had began to pick up the pace, my tactic was to focus on the person in front of me and work on catching them. This worked well for awhile until it seemed like there was nobody up ahead to catch and I thought I might have to run the rest of the race completely alone. Turns out, I spotted two girls in the distance and feeling a little relieved tried to maintain my pace and hope I could catch up to them.

Soon enough I passed the Mile 6 marker and was in the midst of a pretty steep hill. Thinking that this must be the hilly section that I had heard about just before the race I powered up the hill, passing a water station and a couple of other runners. Reaching what I thought was the top I began chatting with a couple from England who were vacationing in New England for the week and had decided to run the race. They told me that next year they would be running across Scotland as part of a multi-day running trip - so cool! As we decided the hill and took a sharp turn the woman mentioned that she heard we had a big hill coming up (another one?) and sure enough right ahead of us was a HUGE steep hill! Before I could get upset about it I put my head down and powered to the top, passing a few people along the way (and getting passed by one super fast girl, no idea where she came from). After finally reaching what seemed to be the top I breathed a sigh of relief and thought to myself "that must be all the hills." Ha. How silly of me.

^^sweet, sweet downhill

Sure enough, after a small downhill I turned another corner and saw another STEEP, STEEP HILL up ahead with all but one person walking up it! My legs were feeling quite tired at this point but I had just passed the Mile 9 marker and knew that there was a large section of downhill coming up (or so I hoped). I pushed up the hill (at a snail's pace) and finally reached the top where there were two lovely volunteers with oranges, water and gatorade cheering everyone on! They promised that it was all downhill from here on out and I yelled over to them hoping they were right!

Sure enough, I immediately hit a super steep downhill and had to put in a lot of effort to keep my legs from going out of control crazy fast down this section. I passed a few people but mostly everyone was booking it and it was hard to catch people. This steep section leveled out a bit but was still quite a bit of a downhill. I welcomed it with open arms and before I knew it I was about to pass the Mile 11 marker! Only 2 more miles to go!

^^sideways shot

I had just caught up with two men who were running about the same pace I was and after striking up a conversation with them decided that we were running pretty similar paces and I would try to stick with them for the remainder of the race. We chatted about marathons, running in Boston and the Marine Corps marathon that my sister was running that day! Soon enough (still going downhill) we passed Mile 12 and we picked up the pace a bit knowing we had less than a mile to go! While I had struggled hard core on the hilly sections of this race I made up a significant about of time on the downhills and was on track to finish under 2:05 (which I was very happy about considering I had been thinking about a 2:15 or 2:20 halfway through this race).

At about 12.5 miles we turned back onto the rail trail and I kicked it up a notch since I was feeling really great (downhill effect? runner's high? a combination of both?). We jetted off the rail trail onto the soccer field where we had started. The finish line was on the opposite end of the turf and before I knew it I was "sprinting" across the field and crossing the finish line!

My official time was 2:03:something. All in all it was a very tough, hilly race but turned out pretty great. After Chicago it was great to run a small race and enjoy the beauty of Vermont.