Ridgefield Half Marathon, aka “The Tune-Up”

(I apologize in advance for some of the fuzzy photos. I’d like to think it was due to my blazing speed, but it’s more likely due to the cloudy/low light situation at race time.)

Last Sunday was the Ridgefield-Pamby Half Marathon. It was a “tune-up” for my marathon training – a lower-mileage long run at race pace to give the legs a test workout. I’m happy to say that myself, along with Mary, Amy, and Dr. M, swept the top four places in the race. Oh, that would be in the race in my head, where they have an awards category for teacher-runners. Despite the lack of that category, it was a strong race for all of us.

Overnight, the temps dropped and it was about 47 degrees at the start. Here we are, appropriately posed on the front steps of the Board of Education building. Note that I am the cold-whimpiest of the bunch, based on my outfit:

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Ready to Rock and Roll.

I ran back to my car and drop off my race T-shirt, and I bumped into Dr. M in the parking lot.

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Pinning the bib is sometimes the hardest part.

Based on the conversation we had, I think he was a little nervous:

Dr. M: Where do you put your car key during the race?

Me: Um… (point to the middle of my chest)

Dr. M: Oh.

Me: You know you’re wearing a waistpack, right? Put it in there.

Dr. M: Right.

I admit, I was a little nervous, too. Not super nervous – partially because I had run the race last year and partially because I was just too tired all week to think about it. I tried not to get my expectations too high for this race, as it’s part of the buildup to the marathon. It’s just a training run…enjoy the ride – I told myself.

However, Coach Erin and I had a convo last Monday about various things, including this race, and she declared, “You might surprise yourself on this race.” Why did she have to say that? Seed: Planted. Now I knew I wanted to surprise myself.

There were probably about 500 racers today. Luckily, unlike last year, Mary and I didn’t arrive late out of the restrooms and get swept up in the front of the pack with the Fast People. We ran our own pace this time. We spotted Mary’s sister Katie at mile 1:

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Holla Mary’s sister!

Everything good so far. Mile 2 is the biggest, steepest uphill of the race. It separates the boys from the men, or the “I-Avoid-Hills-People” from the Hill Killers. This was Amy’s first half marathon, and knowing that we had been training on hills, I said to her, “It’s just Grove Street. You got this. Now start picking people off.” HILL KILLERS.

Mary’s husband snapped a nice one at the top of this hill:

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I’m on the far left, Mary in middle with the blue shirt, and Amy’s blond ponytail swinging behind white-cap-lady.

Amy is a native Ridgefielder, and just married another native Ridgefielder a couple of months ago. She knows everyone in town. Pair that with the fact that we teachers were all running in the district in which we teach, you’ve got one helluva personal cheering section around every corner.

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Yep, there’s some of Amy’s family.

We passed the first beverage station, and then we entered Loop #1. This race is a mostly 2-loop course. There are rolling hills, but some nice flat parts too. We came up on the water stop around mile 5, and like good little distance runners, reached for our energy gels, so they could be washed down with some liquid at the water stop. Ruh-Roh. Both Mary’s and Amy’s back zippers stuck! We stopped in the middle of the road while I helped them unstick the zippers. Those puppies stuck hard, too. I’m sure all people could see were my hands doing something near their respective butts. Nice. Amy’s never did open all the way and I feared her gels would squish out of the packets as she tried to squeeze them through the little opening we could make.

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Wardrobe malfunction!

Whew! Call off the emergency crews – gel crisis averted!

After the water stop, we heard the muffle of the police car speaker to move aside, which meant that the lead runners were coming through. Some might think of getting lapped by the leaders as a buzz kill, but I know that I will never run that insane pace, so who cares? I run my own race. I cheered them on. Wow, these runners were BLAZING. You go.

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I’m going to blame the blur on his fastness.

We soon run into more of Amy’s family.

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The Nuun handoff is complete. Thanks to the support team of Amy’s dad and brother.

At this point (which is about mile 6), I have to say I’m felt pretty good. I was warm but not too hot. My feet, hammie, and other twingey parts were all behaving. Mile 7 is a long, gradual uphill. I spied one of my little kiddos and her family from my current class. I ran a little straighter and a little stronger.

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I heart these moments.

I am noticing some under-9:30 times popping up on my Garmin. I try not to look anymore, because that might be too good to be true. Then I got to the top and realized I killed it. Happy face.

I turned a corner, and saw a huge teacher cheering section whooping it up!

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This is the hometown crew. Bow to them.

We turned the next corner and…time to go around again. CURSE YOU, double loop course. You exist to make misery.

But what made it better were pumpkins-as-field-marshalls…

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More of my students and their families, complete with kids’ music toys used as noisemakers:

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Woo to the hoo!

and new running friend Alison at the end of her driveway, also with a noisemaker, cheering away (sorry for the head-turned photo!)

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Gosh, today was not a good photo-taking day for me.

Around mile 9, and after the last water station, I felt a surge of energy. Just a pent-up, strong urge to kick it up. I debated leaving Mary and Amy for about a 1/2 mile, and then I just couldn’t resist the URGE TO SURGE. (Sorry, that was awfully corny. Had to be said.)

I turned around to Amy & Mary and told them something like, “I want to see what I can do with this course.” and then I took off. Usually at mile 10 I’m ticking off the minutes and wanting to be done. This time, every part of me felt strong and relaxed.

I went up the long uphill again and felt buoyant and happy. I was boosted by the earlier crew – including Jen-With-One-N (far right of pic) – and they whooped it up again! So! Awesome!

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I know it’s not the greatest sport in the world to spectate (you wait forever to see just a few seconds of your runner) but this totally made me run faster. LOVE YOU GUYS.

I got up to main street, passed the fountain, and I just flew it into high gear. I passed about 5 people and turned the corner into the last 0.10, and there was my husband and kiddos! HAPPY FACES all around!

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My loves.

Here comes the finish chute. I still, miraculously, felt great!

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YAY for slightly downhill finishes.

I knew I was going to be close to a PR (personal record). Mary’s husband caught me at the finish line.

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One of my better finish-line photos. And I didn’t have to pay $40 for it.

My last PR for a half marathon was 2:10:18. This wasn’t a chip-timed race, and my Garmin said 2:09:52 (to account for the few seconds it took for me to cross the starting line). But whatevs, a new PR! When I got home and looked at the splits, the last three miles turned out to be my fastest: 9:24, 9:10, 8:52 respectively. Sweet!

And not too far behind me, Amy and Mary came flying down the chute!

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Now that is some kick (Dr. M’s on the right. He finished in a super-fast 1:45 – rock on!)

So here we are, the teacher contingent of of the finishers of the race:

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I’m smiling like a muppet. That must mean I’m happy.

Congrats to Amy, on finishing her first half marathon. It’s a remarkable feeling, especially after you plan and train, train and plan. You will ride that high for days!

Next week for me: The 20-mile training run! (Cue dramatic music and me putting my wrist on my forehead and fainting.)