Monday, March 19, 2012

Race Report: Quincy Half Marathon

Pacing for the Half of Quincy
I've read that for those of us new to marathon training that it’s a good idea to run a half-marathon about two months beforehand to get a feel for long-distance racing. Since the Burlington Marathon’s at the end of May, I signed up for the Half of Quincy – a new half-marathon / 5K race that was held this past Sunday. The race had the added benefit of being on the water (always nice) and being in Josh's hometown , my old college roommate and a longtime friend who also happens to be a speedy runner.

It hasn’t been much of a winter this year in New England, and this Sunday was no exception – it must have been 55 when we lined up to start and rose into the 70s as the day wore on. Still, it was March, with a chilly wind off the water, so Eric, Josh and I lined up in shorts and long-sleeve shirts. Eric and I started out slowly, quickly losing sight of Josh in the crowd, because we had both stated our intention of treating this race as a training run and because I was fearful of aggravating the strange right-calf pains I'd been experiencing the last few weeks. However, the great weather and competition meant that after the first mile I felt comfortable enough settling into a comfortable 7:30 pace. I was loving not carrying the hand-held - many thanks to the volunteers handing out water! - and the flat course. Training on Ashland’s hilly terrain really paid off here, with a max elevation gain of 100 feet - and all that within a mile - I was able to keep a faster pace for longer than I normally do. 

Most of the race, I was by myself, although afterwards Eric told me that he was on my tail for a long time before I had to stop for a quick bathroom break at 7.5 miles. The crazy thing was that when I started running again I passed him at some point without even noticing! At that point, I was locked in – I had changed my music from my typical ambient downtempo (The Orb, mostly) to straight rock and roll, and  suspect that I passed him when Zevon was pounding out "Boom Boom Mancini". That song energized the second half of the race for me – and between the toons and my stop, I felt very strong, and started slowly increasing my speed, becoming ever more confident in the health of my calf.

I finally saw Josh up ahead of me around 10 miles and worked steadily to catch up. I caught up with him after mile 11, with Eric (unbeknownst to me) right on our tails. I said Hi to Josh (and our families, who had come out to watch) and, not wanting to lose the great feeling in my legs, took off for the finish line. While I didn’t finish with a kick, I slowly sped up to a 7:00 minute mile pace as I crossed the finish line in 1:37:51. Josh was right behind me at 1:38:32, with Eric on his heels at 1:38:39. An excellent effort by all! We celebrated with bananas and coconut water, I gave my medal to Hunter, and enjoyed the incredible food provided by the Culinary arts program at Quincy High School - homemade cookies, chicken and minestrone soup, and wraps - before heading back to Josh's house for cold beers.

All in all I couldn’t be happier with my performance. My calf injury not only appears to have cleared up but I was also able to run much faster than I had hoped (I was anticipating finishing in 1:50; certainly no faster than 1:45). I’m feeling much more confident in my ability to tackle longer distances, which is good, because the next few weekends are going to be filled up with ever-longer distances (this Sunday I tackle 16 miles!) And, most importantly, it was an excellent time on an amazing day with some of my best friends. I look forward to running it again next year!

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