Saturday, December 04, 2010

Newport Pie Run

(Results) This year, I decided to do a Thanksgiving race. Every other year of my life, I have either been in Maine for Thanksgiving or traveling to relatives' houses, so there has been no time for races. This year, a confluence of the mutual absence of many sets of relatives left me free and able to do whatever I cared to do on Thanksgiving, so I decided to do a five-mile road race.

I looked at last year's results, and decided on a race in southern Rhode Island that gave cash to the top two runners. Last year's competition was stiff, but I decided that as long as I ran hard, I would be able to run with last year's winner (MH) and at least get second place. The race is generally known as the Newport Pie Run, but it is actually in Middletown, RI.

When we arrived, I was happily surprised to see our friend Mark signing up! So Mark and I did a warm-up together. It was quite cold out, in the 30s, and windy (Middletown is on the ocean). I saw one woman (KS), in pink, who looked pretty good, but I didn't recognize her. I also saw MH (last year's winner). I stripped down to my singlet and shorts and went to the starting line. It was bitterly cold and windy, so I stood inside the mass of people (mostly dressed in long pants and long sleeves, gloves, hats, etc.) to stay warm. When the race start was imminent and I went to the starting line, I was unhappily surprised to find two really fast women standing there. One ran in the 2008 Olympics. The other recently ran a half marathon nearly one minute faster per mile than my PR. Well, there went the cash. Thanks, guys. Now it really was just going to be a pie run for me.

There's no crying in football, and there's no stopping in running. The gun went off and I was running. It took me about 15 seconds to realize that my hands were freezing cold. It was cold and windy, and my hands were seriously uncomfortable. I wasn't going to be able to warm up my fingers by wiggling them, because the wind was too cold. I should have worn gloves. This was a real problem. As I was wondering whether I should run with my hands on my neck, or on my waist, or what, Alan happened to mention, "If you want my gloves at any point, just say so." "YES!" I said, and over the next 30 seconds or so used the stiff fingers on one hand to get the gloves onto the stiff fingers on the other hand. It probably slowed me down, but I didn't care.

We passed the first mile in 5:52 (Alan was running with me). That seemed like a pretty reasonable speed -- slower than 5k pace, but not too much slower. The two fast women had disappeared into the distance. Alan glanced back and said, "you've got company," meaning that MH was close behind me. (He later told me that she was running about 10 meters behind us for the first two miles.) I didn't think about it; I put it out of my mind.

We hit two miles in 11:54, for a 6:02 second mile. I was happy to still be averaging under 6-minute pace. At this point we ran downhill to a beach, where it was windy but probably scenic (I did notice an octagonal gazebo). Here was an out-and-back section, so we started to see the leaders coming back. The runner immediately ahead of me was Dave, a friend from RI who is often close to me in races, and as we passed him on the out-and-back part near the cone, Alan told him he better not slow down, because we're coming for him... I was able to see who was behind me, and it was KS (the woman in pink that I had noticed as looking fast) followed by MH! Once again, out of over 1300 people milling around before the race, I had correctly identified my two closest competitors...

We hit three miles in 17:54 for a 6:00 mile, aided by the downhill, and began the trek back up the hill we had descended. The hill seemed to be about half a mile long -- it was LONG. I conserved energy on the uphill and probably slowed down too much, though Alan was looking back periodically and he reported later that the hill was where I dropped KS and MH. We went through four miles in 24:22 for a 6:28 fourth mile. Not my finest hour, but this hill was pretty serious business.

Happily, though, the downhill was on the other side and we screamed down it all the way to the finish. I managed to catch and pass Dave, and put about 15 seconds between us in the last half mile. This portion of the race was very windy, and even when I ran so close to Alan that I nearly clipped his heels, it was still windy and I felt like I wasn't drafting at all. The next person in front of me was Alan's teammate, and he encouraged me to catch the guy, but he was pretty far ahead and it didn't seem possible to me.

When the finish line was in sight, Alan peeled off and told me I had 20 seconds to get in under 30 minutes, and I could do it. When I heard "20 seconds," I immediately thought "100 meters" (80-second laps being an ingrained benchmark) and looked ahead and thought it looked to be a little farther than that. But I kicked hard and was surprised at how much speed I had left. I nearly did catch the guy (he beat me by a second, but our chip times were the same) and came in with a time of 30:09 (5:47 last mile). To my surprise, KS finished ahead of MH. It turns out that KS is totally legit, even though she was racing in a pink zip-up sweatshirt. It just goes to show you that you can't judge people's speed by the clothes they wear to race.

That's a 7-second PR for me over my 5-mile split from the 2009 Tufts 10k, and a 23-second PR over my actual 5-mile race PR from Red Rooster Ramble #13. However, I'm confident that I could have gone a lot faster. I didn't come into the race mentally prepared to push myself to the wall, and I didn't push myself nearly as hard as I did in RRR #13. Had I pushed myself that hard, I surely would have run faster. The conditions weren't great; as I discussed, the wind was a constant factor, and the hill was long. With these considerations in mind, I've decided that I'm glad I didn't break 30 minutes, because my goal is not to break 30 minutes: The next time I race five miles, I want to break 29 minutes. That's my goal and I'm sticking to it.

I won my age group, so I came home with a metal water bottle and two pies (apple and pumpkin) for my efforts. $25 poorer, but at least well hydrated and fed.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Running every town in Rhode Island

Rhode Island is a really small state. It only has 39 towns. So, I've decided to run in all of them while I live here. So far, I have run in 21 of them. I am keeping track of my progress on this page.

This past weekend I ran in two new towns -- Middletown and Tiverton. I thought I would be running in Newport for the NewportFED Pie Run, but it turns out that the race is in Middletown. (Similarly, the previous weekend I did a race sponsored by the Westerly Track Club, which was in Charlestown rather than Westerly.) On Sunday, I was going to Little Compton anyway, so on the way we did a long run in the wonderfully-named Weetamoo Woods in Tiverton, RI.

Rhode Island has a lot of localities that aren't officially-recognized towns. For instance, the University of Rhode Island claims to be in Kingston, RI as its official university address. However, there is no Kingston -- there is a South Kingstown and a North Kingstown (note the addition of a "w"). Officially, URI is in South Kingstown.

Luckily, we just got a Rhode Island atlas with the town boundaries clearly delineated, so we can tell exactly which town a certain race route or run was in. For instance, the Red Rooster Ramble, which I ran 16 times in 2010, is generally known to be in Warren, RI. However, only the first and last mile of the course is actually in Warren; the middle three miles are in Barrington. And when I did my warm-up run, I ran to Bristol. Who knew?

One reasonable question might be, "what qualifies as running?" For instance, I visited Newport and I probably jogged a few steps across a road or something while I was there: does that count? No. For this definition, I'm inclined to adopt Dave Dunham's rule, which he used when he ran in every town in Massachusetts: It has to be part of a run of at least three miles. I have also decided that it's acceptable if it is part of a race warm-up or cool-down even if that part of the run is less than three miles.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Li'l Rhody Runaround

It has been far too long since I have posted, so I am going to start now, and try to catch up on race writeups and other posts I've been thinking about, before the end of the year. I'll start with today's race.

(Results) Today was the Li'l Rhody Runaround, an 8-mile trail race in Westerly, RI. I did it last year, but at a comfortable pace because I had the Alden Invite coming up a week later, where I wanted to run a fast mile. This year I was willing to run a little faster. I was planning to wear racing flats, but when I arrived at the race I learned that the woman who has dominated the race for the past few years was out of town, so I opted to wear trainers to be gentler on my calf, with which I've been having issues lately. I tied them a little tighter than usual so that they would feel more like racing flats and provide good traction on the rocky trail.

Everyone was required to wear at least 200 square inches of orange, because it is hunting season, so I went all-out and wore an orange NBB singlet (from last year), orange shorts (with orange tape over the logo) and orange gloves. I was one of the only people out of 300 runners wearing a singlet; most people had long sleeves and many had long pants. But it was about 40 degrees and sunny. If you're cold when it's 40 degrees and sunny, you're not running hard enough! That's what I tell myself.

The gun went off and we ran about 3/4 of a mile down a dirt road before entering the trail. Lots of men passed me during the road portion, and I made sure they didn't have ponytails. Once we got onto the single-track trail, I just held my position. Every so often a man would pass me; probably 10 men passed me over the course of the 6 miles of trail. Occasionally I passed the man ahead of me. The trail was well-marked with pink or yellow arrows, and quite dry. There were many boardwalks, each with "AMC 2001" or a similar year carved into them, and even a covered bridge with benches inside!

My biggest problems were rocks, roots and leaves (pretty typical for a trail race, I know). The trail was absolutely covered with dry leaves, pretty thickly, so often I would slip a bit, like a treadmill action. The roots were good for traction (because I could avoid the leaves), but somehow I found myself stepping on the roots with my toes while my heels were still on the ground, which jerked at my achilles tendons (bad when you are having calf issues already). I did this about five times in the first few miles, and thereafter figured out how to avoid it. The rocks were also good for traction, but it was challenging to figure out the best path over them and tiptoe delicately across them while maintaining a good pace. Sometimes I chose the wrong path over them and went further than necessary, and once I had to leap over a puddle at the last second. But as trail races go, this one was very tame; it was only gently rolling, with something that I would call a "hill" at about the 5 and 6 mile marks.

There were actually some hunters out there, so it was good we were wearing orange. I saw a guy up ahead with an orange vest on, so I assumed he was a race volunteer -- until I saw the long black rifle he was holding! I'm sure it would be difficult to find animals to shoot, when 300 people are running through the woods. Another time, I saw a guy in orange with a camera that had a huge lens on it, so again I thought he must be a race photographer -- but he wasn't taking pictures, so I guess he was just out there taking pictures of the animals.

I was able to work with the men around me; for the first half of the race I was in a long parade of orange men. As the race went on, the short road portions and the hills broke up the parade, and I had to actually look at the arrows marking the course, rather than just following the guy ahead! When we went on the short road portions, I expected to feel better than on the trail, but to my surprise I felt like I was working hard just to stay even, and I was happy when we ducked back into the woods again. (This may have been because it was windy on the road, and not in the woods.)

At about 7 miles we popped out of the woods for the mile-long road run to the finish. Given my negative experience with the road portion in the middle, I was pleasantly surprised that I felt great, and immediately pulled away from the guy who had been right behind me for the past few minutes. I passed two more guys on the road and felt nice and smooth all the way through the finish. They announced my name as I was nearing the end, and even held up a finish tape! Pretty nice for a trail race!

I ran back along the course to find my friend Sarah, and ran to the finish with her, then went on a little more cool down. The post-race refreshments were great, with hot soup, fixings for PB&Js, and cider. They gave some nice prizes, and even a plaque! Sarah placed in her age group, and Mica ran the farthest she has ever run! So we all went home happy.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Running on Deer Isle: Part III

This fall, a series of four essays is running in the Island Ad-Vantages, the local newspaper for Deer Isle and Stonington, ME. After each of my essays appears in the paper, I will also post it here.

When I decided to run every road on Deer Isle, I initially planned to skip all the private roads, because I didn't want to trespass onto private property. However, as soon as I started running the roads, I very quickly learned that if I skipped the roads marked "PVT," I'd miss 90 percent of Deer Isle. One of the reasons for running every road on Deer Isle was to really explore the island and see all of it, and to do that I had to run the private roads.

To respect property owners while still being true to my goal, I came up with a few simple rules. First, if there is a "No Trespassing" sign, I turn around at the sign. Similarly, if there is a rope or chain across the driveway, I turn around there. These rules result in some rather silly behavior: I run about four feet down a road, turn around at the rope, and run four feet back out, just so I can "count" the road as one I have done.

Additionally, if the road ends at a house, I turn around about 100 feet before I get to the house. However, it's often hard to tell whether the road ends. Several times, when the road curved around the back of the house, it looked like it kept going, so I ran down the road past the house, only to stop short when I realized the road ended in a parking spot. Other times, the road looked like it stopped at a house, so I turned around, only to inspect the satellite images later on the computer and find that the road did continue past the house. When that happened, I went back and ran the road again, this time all the way to the end.

To my surprise and continual delight, I have never had any trouble running on private roads. When I am running on a private road and a car comes by, I am always afraid they will stop and question me – but I smile and wave at them, and every time they just wave back and keep driving. (My theory is that on a private road with multiple houses, everyone just assumes that I'm someone else's crazy houseguest or renter.) I have run past people sitting on the porch in their pajamas, people mowing lawns, people out for a walk. I wave to them, and they wave back. When running on the main road, I wave to every car that passes, and usually the driver gives me a two-finger wave. Everyone is friendly.

One time, I was running on the French Camp Road, and I was doing a workout: 15 seconds sprinting and 30 seconds jogging, repeated over and over. I was afraid that someone would come home to find me absolutely tearing out of their driveway at full speed, and they would make the logical deduction that I had burglarized their house and was making a getaway. Luckily, I didn't see anyone the whole time I was running there.

I did get caught trespassing once, but it was my own fault for being lazy and not following my own rules. Most roads on Deer Isle, I have to run twice: once on the way in and once coming out. This particular day, my map showed that two roads connected in a "V" shape, so I could run in one road and out the other. However, when I ran down the first road, I found that it didn't quite connect to the second one, though I could see the second road through the trees. I didn't feel like running all the way out the way I had just came, and then running all the way down the other road just to end up at a place that I could see from where I was standing, so I quickly walked through 100 feet of woods and started jogging out the other road – and found myself on the wrong side of an 8-foot-tall metal gate!

The bad news: the landowner was in the woods gardening, and sternly informed me that I was on private property, and then listened unsympathetically to my explanation about my map. The good news: it had been pouring rain for an hour, and I was thoroughly soaked, so when the woman asked me where I came from and I told her Ron's Mobil (at this point about three miles away), she evidently decided that I was crazy and simply said "good luck." Even more good news: there was an eight-inch gap between the bottom of the gate and the road, so I was able to slide under it and get out of there.

So thanks, Deer Isle and Stonington, for sharing your roads with me and for allowing me to enjoy their beauty as you do.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Running on Deer Isle: Part II

This fall, a series of four essays is running in the Island Ad-Vantages, the local newspaper for Deer Isle and Stonington, ME. After each of my essays appears in the paper, I will also post it here.

About a year ago, I decided to run every road in Deer Isle, and now I've nearly finished my quest. If you see a road with a green or blue sign, I will have run down it. I've run hundreds of miles now on little dirt roads, on the crumbling pavement at the edge of Route 15, at the edge of the ocean and in the middle of the woods.

Over Christmas vacation, with snow on the ground and no vehicles driving to summer homes, animal tracks covered some roads. Deer, squirrels, rabbits, birds – sometimes all in the same area, running in circles and crisscrossing the road as though someone had sprinkled seeds on the snow. Surprisingly, I didn't see much actual wildlife (although one day I ran down a road where all the trees had faces). I saw a few deer, of course, standing on the road and then dashing away between the trees. On Christmas, I ran past a house with ducks on the roof and a horse in the yard. One day, I had been running for less than a minute when a movement on the side of the road startled me and I realized I had just run past a sheep! It wasn't tied up, but it clearly stood in the same place all day, right next to the road. "You'll never guess what I saw today!" I told my family afterwards, in a tone usually reserved for tourists who have spotted a moose.

According to my map, it is possible to get from the Reach Road to the dump, because Quaco Road goes all the way through. One day, I parked on the Sunshine Road, ran up Fish Creek Road, and took a left where indicated on the map. It was a dirt road, and then it was two ruts, and then two ruts with grass in the middle. Soon, puddles filled the ruts and I couldn't run more than a minute without stopping to tiptoe my way around the edge of the puddle, or pick my way through the middle on conveniently-placed rocks, or take a few steps and then make a flying leap across the whole thing and hope the dirt on the other side was solid. As the dump got closer, I started seeing all kinds of junk discarded in the woods. Half of a car from the 1940s, a refrigerator, an old mattress – all kinds of stuff that I didn’t know was back there.

On Lowe Road, I wasn't quite as fortunate. On my map, Lowe Road also goes through to the Reach Road. Once again, I parked my car on the Sunshine Road, and my boyfriend and I planned a long loop: up Route 15, across Lowe Road, down the Reach Road to the Sunshine Road and back to the car. However, as we ran along Lowe Road, we discovered that (like so many roads on the island), it ended at a house. No problem! We would find it: the old road, or puddle-filled ruts, or trail, which would take us to the Reach Road. We followed everything we could find, pushing through thorn bushes, wading through puddles, going east in an attempt to find the Reach Road. We ended up finding a long path through fields, which we followed east for half an hour or so until it ended in a clearing and we were completely lost. Eventually, we crossed some sort of fence and found a dirt road. But which way was out? I spotted a "Private Property" sign and reasoned that it had to be facing out, so we ran that way and found ourselves back on Route 15, popping out at Dexter Farm Road, which we had run past an hour before!

Me running down a typical private dirt road in Deer Isle

One day in the winter, I found myself running down a road that kept going and going, nearly a mile long with just one house at the end. This road was beautiful, sweeping past large boulders until it curved down along a natural beach, a private beach in a small cove, hard to see from out on the ocean and not marked on any maps. In fact, I found several such beaches on the island: small deposits of sand that couldn't be seen from the main road or from the bay, perhaps enjoyed by the same family for generations. At one beach, the sand extended out towards a small island, forming a natural sand bar. Beach chairs were wedged into the bank.

Late in the summer, I ran past a secret lily pond. Perhaps someone took flowers from Ames Pond, tied their roots to rocks, and tossed them in. Another day, I ran down a road which (as usual) ended at a house, but in this case the house was surrounded by cars, cars from every decade, and trucks, and tractors, more than 50 of them in all, cars that should have been in the parade and cars up on blocks.

And the dogs! Big dogs barking and jumping behind tall fences, tiny little dogs yipping from enclosed screen porches, loose dogs that come out into the road and chase me, growling. Once, a man happened to drive by at just as a loose dog was coming for me. He slowed down, rolled down his window, called the dog by name and told it to leave me alone. Thanks to this kind man, whomever he is, I was able to pass the house and keep running. Thank you!

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Red Rooster Ramble wrapup

The Red Rooster Ramble is a 24-week race series, a 5-mile race every Thursday night. Of the 24 races, I did 16 of them. I placed first in all 16 races I entered. I set course records in week #3 (30:57) and week #13 (30:32). (In the meantime, my record was broken in week #12 (30:45) which is why I had to get it back in week #13.)

There was a points competition, as follows: 5 points for showing up, plus 10 extra points for first place, 9 extra for second place, etc. down to 1 extra for tenth place. So each week that I won, I earned 15 points. I led the points competition for the whole series, but the second-place woman was always very close, and I knew that I had to keep showing up at races or else she would surpass me. I made a few trips to Providence to keep my dream alive, and in the end my 240 points was enough to win.

Over the course of the 16 weeks, I had various goals for the runs. Sometimes I wanted it to be a tempo run. The week before the half marathon, I wanted to practice my half marathon pace. The week after the half marathon, I wanted to survive the race and keep my winning streak alive. Many times in the summer, it was 85 degrees and humid, so I just wanted to finish without collapsing of heatstroke. Here is a graph of my finishing times this year.

It may be worth noting that only three females have ever run under 32 minutes on the course (mostly because no one else has bothered). I did that a number of times this year. Each of the other women has only done it once.

For all but two of the races, I kept track of my mile times for each of the five miles. (One of the times I didn't do it was my slowest one, the post-half marathon race.) I have a secret conspiracy theory that mile 4 is actually a little long and mile 5 is a little short, and I have persisted in believing this conspiracy theory even after Ray officially certified the course. This graph supports my theory.

This graph tells many stories. For instance, look at the orange curve. That was a hot summer night when I just wanted to get through the race and run under 7-minute pace. But in the last mile, there was a man just ahead of me, so I decided to pass him. He didn't want to be passed, so he sped up. In the end, I did pass him, but I had to run a 6:20 last mile to do it!

Another interesting thing to notice is that every mile I ran except one was a 6-something. I never ran 7:00 or over, and I only ran one 5:58. Every other mile was 6:00 to 6:57.

It's interesting to look at the difference between my two course-record runs. In Week #3, I didn't set out to run a course record; I merely decided (somewhat ambitiously) that 31:00 would be a good tempo run, so I set out to do it. Alan ran with me through a 5:58 first mile in which I harbored fantasies that he would let me take the overall win, and then I slowed down throughout the race until, at mile 4, it was clear that I had to majorly speed up in order to hit 31:00. I ran 6:01 for that mile, my fastest last mile of the entire series.

In Week #13, I actively set out to break the course record. I enlisted the help of a friend to set a consistent 6:06 pace. The graph shows that I managed to run a consistent pace.

Many of the curves show a significant speedup in the last mile. I attribute most of this to men. There were often men around me, and I often wanted to pass them, so I often accelerated in the last mile even though there is no specific prize associated with passing men.

At the end-of-season party, I received many prizes for all of this running. I received a trophy and some money for having the fastest overall time, a gift certificate for earning more points than any other women, a bottle of champagne for having the most points of anyone (men or women), and a shirt for running more than 8 races.

I had a good time and made lots of running friends, and I'm planning to do it again next year! I can't wait until March!

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Intermediate PR Theorem

Today in class I talked about the Intermediate Value Theorem, so this is a good opportunity for me to talk about my favorite application thereof.

Imagine that you are racing an 800, and your coach tells you to run 80 seconds per lap. Well, you get all over-excited for the first lap and run a 70, and then you are tired and run a 90 for the second lap. Afterwards, your coach says, "that was the worst-paced 800 I've ever seen! Was there even a single lap in there that you did in 80 seconds?"

In fact, there is! Since you ran the first lap in 70 and the next lap in 90, there must have been some 400-meter stretch which you covered in exactly 80 seconds. Maybe it was from 200 to 600 meters, something like that.

To prove this with the Intermediate Value Theorem in a way that will generalize to my next example, let's do something slightly different. Instead of timing you for different 400-meter stretches and finding one where you ran it in 80 seconds, we'll look at different 80-second time periods and try to find one where you covered exactly 400 meters. We can do this using the following picture:

Now we'll make a function f(t) = the amount of distance covered between time=t and time=t+80. In mathematical terms, if your speed is some function v(t):

Then f(0) is the distance covered in the first 80 seconds. This is going to be more than 400 meters, since it took you only 70 seconds to cover the first lap:

Similarly, f(80) is the distance covered in the last 80 seconds (from 80 seconds to the end -- 80 + 80 = 160 seconds = 2:40), which is less than 400 meters, since it took 90 seconds to cover the last 400 meters:

And for some time in the middle, the distance covered is exactly 400 seconds. Maybe it's from 29 to 109 seconds, so f(29) = 400 meters:

Now here is a picture of f(t) itself. It starts out greater than 400 and ends up less than 400, so the Intermediate Value Theorem says that it must be exactly 400 at some point in the middle.

Okay, now for the fun part. I run a lot of races and I keep careful track of all of my personal records (PRs). Sometimes, I run a personal best for a shorter distance during a race of a longer distance -- say, a 3-mile PR while I'm running a 5k. In that case, the course is usually marked at the 3-mile point, and I can look at my watch and see what my time was. However, sometimes I want to just multiply my final time by a suitable factor.

Last weekend, I went through the first two miles of a 5k in 11:09. I converted this to a 3k time by multiplying by 1.864/2, and got 10:24 for the 3k distance. This is extremely close to my PR of 10:22. I'd like to be able to say, "I ran a 10:24 3k during my 5k!" But is this really true? The Intermediate Value Theorem says yes!

To see this, we set up a function as above, f(t) = the distance covered in the 10:24 starting at time=t. If I cover exactly 3k in the first 10:24 of the race, i.e. if f(0) = 3000m, then we're good! If not, then either it's more or less. Let's say f(0) > 3000m, so I was even faster than average at the beginning! No problem. But then there must have been a time in the last bit of the 2-mile period when I was slower than the average, so by inching t along, we can find a place where f(t) = 3000m exactly. Similarly, if I was slower at the beginning and f(0) < 3000, then there must have been a time at the end when I was faster than average, so we can inch t forward until f(t) = 3000m exactly.

So now you know: I lied to my class today when I told them my favorite application of the IVT was the "temperature at antipodal points" example. My real favorite example is this application to running times.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Downtown 5k

(Results) My time in this race was not as fast as I had hoped, but my place was higher than I would have dreamed! Before the race, I hoped I might be able to place in the top 25. However, I ended up placing 16th, 13th American. Last year, the 16th female ran 16:33! Who knows why many fewer elite women showed up this year, but I'll take it.

The morning was cold, so I wore warm-up pants and a jacket to walk down to the race area. I visualized my 18-minute race. My plan was to run with Joan Benoit Samuelson. I did my warm-up run in my long pants, and by the time I got back my leg muscles were thoroughly warmed up, as was the day itself. It turned out to be much warmer than I expected.

I lined up about 5 rows from the front. I was happy to meet my friend Jenn on the starting line. When I told her of recent PR and my plan to run with Joan, she said that I would probably be faster than Joan. She also told me that she herself would be lucky to run under 18 minutes. So I revised my plan and decided to try to run with Jenn. Also, I couldn't find Joan on the starting line, even though I knew what she was wearing. Only much later, when I watched the race video, did I realize that there were two parallel starting lines: Joan was on the other side of a barrier from me, so I couldn't see her.

The gun went off and I went out at a fast clip. I saw Jenn zip past me on the left and I caught up to her. A pudgy woman passed me on the downhill in the first 1/10 of a mile and called out happily to her friend. Whatever! Jenn was going quite fast and passing people left and right. I kept up with her for a while, but after about 1/4 mile I realized that she was going too fast for me, so I let her go. I also couldn't see Joan, so I had to just run on my own.

Here is a picture of me and Henry in the first mile. I should not have been ahead of Henry -- he finished in 17:28. Photo by Scott Mason.

I passed the mile in 5:28. I had expected the first mile to be fast, and it was! Just then, Joan came zipping by on my left. I caught up to her and ran behind her for a few paces, but I was unable to match her speed, and I watched her open a gap ahead of me as we ran past the Wild Colonial. In the middle of the third mile, Alan was on the side of the course and told me I was in 15th place. I was very surprised to be at such a high position! I wondered if a horde of women was going to pass me in the second half of the race, since I had gone out too fast.

I tried to keep up a good pace for the second mile, but it was very difficult. I felt that I had gone too fast, and my legs had no pep left. So I tried to keep even with the men around me, though some men passed me. I got to the 2-mile mark in 11:28, for a 6:00 second mile, and 19 seconds slower than my 2-mile time last week. Darn. In the third mile, one woman passed me, and I had no response. I just wanted to maintain my position as well as possible, and I was very fortunate that the hordes of women I feared would pass me never materialized.

Here I am at about 2.8 miles, before turning to go up the ramp.

I was very happy to see the approaches to the mall and know that the race was almost over. I hit the 3-mile clock in 17:26, so I thought that I would finish around 18:00, since last week I discovered that it is about 33 seconds to the finish from 3 miles. So I was unhappy to see the clock saying 18:04, 18:05 when I was not even close yet! I crossed the line in about 18:10. Kevin told me later that the race winner (Molly) had taken about 42 seconds from 3 miles to the end, so my 44 seconds was not too bad.

Given the hot conditions, the many turns on the course and the fact that I went out too fast, 18:10 was a fine time. I was not disappointed. After all, if I hadn't run last week, it would be an 11-second PR. Plus, to finish 16th at the national championships was beyond my wildest dreams! (It all depends on who shows up...)

In the past week I have joined New Balance Boston, so I went to chat with the team after the race. I met some of the other runners on the team, who were all very nice. After a while we headed over to the awards ceremony, and we were happy to learn that the team had placed first! Three women's teams showed up, and only one men's team. Like Steve said, "90% of life is showing up." So we went up and received medals for this feat.

Here is a picture of our three runners. You can see that I am wearing the medal; the others took theirs off. I was very happy to be able to contribute to NBB's third straight team title.

There was cash and special medals for the top 10 Americans, so I was only three places out of such an honor. Crazy! I stayed until the very very bitter end of the awards ceremony, when only about 10 people were left, and Brown won the College Challenge competition, as well (the only college to field a full team). So it was a day for lots of winning.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


(Results) I cannot say enough good things about this race. It was great! It was super! At various times today after the race, people asked me, "so, how was the race?" and I could not help but say, "it was awesome! It was so great!" because truly, it was.

I prepared for this race. I made a plan, and I visualized the race for an entire 18 minutes beforehand, imagining all the turns and the vistas and the times and the thoughts.

My goal was to break 18:00. Last fall, my goal was to break 19:00, and I did, with an 18:58 at the Downtown 5k in September. I improved it to 18:26 in October, and all winter I tried to break 18:00. I even gave up ice cream for about six weeks preceding the USATF-NE indoor track championships, where I finished in a disappointing 18:29. In March I ran 18:24 at St. Pats, chipping two seconds from my PR. In April I ran 18:21 at the Scott Carlson 5k, chipping off another three seconds. Such tiny improvements were frustrating. This summer I ran a lot, and at the end of the summer my comfortable training pace suddenly dropped from 7:45 to 7:15. This told me that I was probably ready for a big improvement in the fall racing season, so I set my goal for this race at sub-18.

Race plan: Run with Katie. Run on her shoulder, and don't let her get away. If she gets away, reel her back in. Stick like glue to Katie as long as possible.

Time plan: Aim for 5:40 for the first mile and under 11:30 for two miles. Try to get to three miles before 17:30, because 30 seconds for the last 0.11 is really quite fast. The first mile has a downhill and the second and third miles both have slight uphills.

The course is quite nice. Basically, you leave the JCC, go to Blackstone Boulevard and run a ways down it, turn around close to the end (at Lloyd Street), and come about a mile up it, and then come back all the way on Elmgrove.

I lined up on the starting line. Steph and Katie were both there, so I expected to get third. Someone sang the national anthem and then I thought we would start, but after the national anthem someone sang what sounded like a Hebrew song of some kind. Mayor Cicilline blew the air horn and we were off. My reaction time was a little faster than most other people's, because I was looking directly at the Mayor instead of listening for the horn. Steph took off in the lead pack with the guys and I stayed at a reasonable pace with Katie. I glanced at my watch at the 3-mile line and saw that it was 33 seconds from there to the start/finish line, so I would have to get there in about 17:26 or faster. We turned a corner at 1/4 mile and Dave S. was right with us. Before the 1/2 mile turn onto Blackstone, we passed him. I have never beaten Dave before, so I confess I was a little excited to be ahead of him in a race.

The first stretch of Blackstone was perfectly straight. Katie and I tucked in behind three guys. I had a sense that she wanted to get around them, but it was impossible because we were running in the bike lane and there were moving cars on the left and parked cars on the right, so we couldn't go anywhere. It was a good thing we didn't, too, because as it was we passed the mile in 5:32. Alan had said to go through the mile no faster than 5:40, but I was sticking to Katie no matter what happened.

Soon we got to the turnaround point. This broke up our little group and we were able to get past two of the guys. Just before we did, a spectator shouted something like, "that's right, get those guys!" and then a few seconds later when we passed them (two of them seemed to be younger, and friends) one of the guys groaned, "oh no..." because he was passed by a female. Actually, two females. (He probably didn't see Steph way up ahead.)

Now we had to run up the gradual hill of Blackstone Boulevard. Katie got a little ahead of me, and I surged for a few strides to catch up again. Then she got a little ahead of me again, and I surged to catch her again. This probably happened five times. I was happy to see that it wasn't too hard to catch back up each time; the hard part was just to stay even and not fall behind.

At this point, there was a guy with long hair (not tied back, just loose) running with us. Every time I surged to catch back up to Katie, he appeared to take it personally, as he put in a big effort to get back in front of me. I tried to ignore his antics, but it was very distracting. After the third time I was getting fed up. I surged to get away from him, but again he got right back in front of me. I was not interested in playing games; I had a race to run! "I'm not racing you," I said. "That's fine," he shouted back. The next time I surged ahead, I was able to leave him behind.

By this time Katie had gotten a bit ahead of me, and we were coming up to the two-mile mark. I passed two miles in 11:11, for a 5:39 second mile. Wow! I was only hoping for 11:30, and here I was 19 seconds under my goal. Pretty exciting! I kept keying off of Katie for the third mile, as we made a sharp turn onto Elmgrove back towards the finish line. I could easily see her ahead of me, and I tried to keep the distance between us constant. I focused on increasing my turnover and speeding up whenever I felt that I was faltering.

Finally I saw cones and flashing lights up ahead. Was it really so soon? I glanced at my watch at the line marked 400/800 (for the children's races) and it said 16:11. With a quarter of a mile to go, I was almost certain to break 18:00!

I kicked hard from there. At the 3-mile mark, where I had hoped to sneak in under 17:30, I was thrilled to see a 17:09. Wow, I was really going to do it! This was a great race! I kicked kicked kicked and watched the clock tick 17:38, 17:39, and then as I crossed the line, the announcer said my name and "17:40." Perfect!

What does 17:40 mean to me?
1. As I said above, it is super! awesome! great!
2. It starts with "17:" which is quite amazing and wonderful.
3. It is the highest performance index I have ever run:

4. I broke 18:00, so I can try to join New Balance Boston!

Also, we had a Brown Running Club team, which was the second team overall and the first all-women's team. The prize is that we get our team name engraved on a plaque in the JCC. Cool! I will have to go there and look at it after it is engraved. So, thanks to Carmen and Emily for being a great team.

Also, there was a raffle afterwards. I nearly always win a prize in post-race raffles. I had three race numbers -- my teammates had to leave early -- and yet, when one of the numbers was called, it was mine. I won a case of beer and a yoga mat. Not bad!

Oh, and ALSO, I was expecting that since I was third, I would receive $50 (the prizes went $150-$100-$50) but it turns out Steph is in another age category, so I got $100 instead of $50! That was very nice. So, a good day all around.

Running on Deer Isle: Part 1

This fall, a series of four essays is running in the Island Ad-Vantages, the local newspaper for Deer Isle and Stonington, ME. After each of my essays appears in the paper, I will also post it here. I have added a photo to jazz up this blog coverage.

I’m a runner, and I’ve been running on Deer Isle for 15 years. It’s a beautiful place to run, and I recently realized that there were a lot of places on the island where I had never been, so in the fall of 2009 I decided to run every road on Deer Isle. During the past year, each visit to Deer Isle has been an exploratory adventure: I pick out a road on the map, drive my car to the spot, and run down yet another collection of small dirt roads, not knowing what I will find at the end or along the way.

I first came to Deer Isle when I was two months old, and I first ran on the island the summer when I was ten, in preparation for joining the cross country team in fifth grade. For the next decade or so, my runs on the island were predictable: I would run out my front door and run out to Route 15 and back a few times, or maybe run to the end of the Sunset Crossroad and back.

Of course, I also ran the Fourth of July Fun Run in Stonington. Some of you may remember my epic duel with Wally Fifield back in 1996: I was 11; he was about 45; we shared the lead all along Cemetery Road and Route 15, until I made a wrong turn at the harbor. Wally got a little ahead of me, and though I sprinted to catch back up, he was able to just out-lean me at the finish line. I ran the Fun Run for four years in a row in the late ‘90s, and now I run the Stonington Six every year.

Once, just before I left the island for my senior year of college, I “ran around the island,” completing a 17-mile loop of Route 15, 15A, and Sand Beach Road. Three years later, I decided to run all the roads on the island. I printed a map of Deer Isle, and highlighted all the roads I had run. Most of the main roads were done, but clearly visible on the map were the hundreds of roads I knew nothing about, like little fingers stretching from the main roads towards the ocean.

That summer, anyone who ran with me joined me on a new road. On Fourth of July weekend, my brother and his wife joined me on a 9-mile run looping around Dunham Point Road and Pressey Village Road. On Labor Day, my boyfriend joined me on a 7-mile run of the Oceanville Road. These are beautiful places! My sister-in-law loved how the Dunham Point Road repeatedly brought us to beautiful views of the water, with the Sylvester’s Cove beach as well as some little private inlets. Why had none of us ever run out there before? We didn’t know what we were missing!

Last winter, I started running the little roads in earnest. I would look at the map of the island, find a main road with a lot of little roads off it, and then set off to run them, highlighting the roads on my map when I was done. The Sunday before Christmas, I ran home from church in a blizzard, and ran all of the little roads off of 15A on the way. On Christmas day, a mild, dry day without much snow on the ground, my boyfriend and I ran the eastern half of the Reach Road, 13 miles of little dirt roads stretching towards the Eggemoggin Reach. A few days later, we ran the Dow Road in the pouring rain, a place where I had never even driven.

Here I am after running home the Sunday after Christmas in a blizzard.

I doubt that anyone has ever run all of the roads on Deer Isle; it just seems too unusual. Some people may have been to all the roads on Deer Isle – especially Hubert Billings, the island’s code enforcement officer. But many people haven’t seen every road, so I would like to share with you my experiences running everywhere on the island, since you have likely never been to some of the places I’ve visited. Over the next few weeks, I will write several more columns about the strange and beautiful things I’ve seen, and I hope you enjoy them nearly as much as I have.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Stratham Fair Road Race

(Results) I ran this race last year, and was hoping to be able to race for the win this time around. Last year, the women's winner (Stephanie) beat me by exactly a minute, so I wasn't close to her at all. I was expecting to be closer to her this year. Alan's plan was to run with me and help me run fast. However, while warming up with Bob and me, he realized that Bob was the only fast guy there, so he registered for the race and decided to run at his pace.

On the starting line, I glanced over to make sure I knew where Stephanie was, at exactly the same moment that she was glancing over to see where I was! So the stage was set. Alan had asked me if my race strategy was going to be "sit and kick," and I told him that it was. However, when the gun went off, I did not feel like hanging back and sitting, so I led. Stephanie hung on my shoulder, chatting with this guy. Seriously, they were chatting about the houses in the area that he had recently toured with a real estate agent. We went through the mile in 6:04 and they were still chatting away. My goal was 6:10 pace, so this was fine.

So after the mile mark, I relented to my strategy and backed off a little to hang on her shoulder. I did this for maybe 3/4 of a mile, until I realized that it was not advantageous to be on someone's left shoulder on a clockwise course. Going up a hill, I surged ahead to take the inside of the turn and passed a few men. I could hear breathing behind me, but I couldn't tell if it was Stephanie or a man. I passed the 2-mile mark in 12:14, for a 6:10 second mile, right on pace.

During the third mile, we went up a couple of hills and I focused on catching the men ahead of me (or perhaps I was just watching them slow down and come back to me -- hard to say, really). The number of water stops on the course was amazing; there were at least 6 water stops on a course of less than 6 miles, plus three people spraying hoses. I didn't drink much, but I poured water on my head and torso at every opportunity. I got to 3 miles in 18:34, for a 6:20 third mile. That seemed reasonable, considering the hills. There was a photographer at mile 3, who snapped a picture just as I looked at my watch. So it goes.

During the fourth mile I think I caught two relay people (the exchange was just before 3 miles) whose partner was faster than they were. Then I caught up to a guy (Todd) and followed him for basically the rest of the race. I kept hearing footsteps behind me, and I actually glanced back once or twice when we went around curves, but there was no one behind us that I could see, no one at all, not even men. I passed 4 miles in 24:39, for a 6:05 fourth mile. Fine with me! I had remembered the final hills as being between mile 5 and the end, but in fact they were between mile 4 and 5. So we climbed the hills of Rt. 33 in Stratham, and Todd was able to get a bit ahead of me.

I passed 5 miles in 31:07, for a 6:28 fifth mile. Again, it seemed okay considering the hills. I knew that it wasn't far to the end from there, and I set my sights on catching Todd. The road curves to the right several times in the last half mile of the course, and I kept thinking the finish was right around the corner! Finally I saw the cones and time clock ahead, and I kicked past Todd to the finish line. Here is a picture (from the Portsmouth Herald):

The next finisher was about a minute behind us. The photographer from the paper asked me where I was from, for the photo caption, and as usual I had a hard time deciding what to say (I unfortunately chose Providence). Then the reporter (Ken) caught up with Alan and me, and interviewed us for a long time, maybe 10 minutes. In the meantime, the next female finishers came along, and it was a sprint finish! To my surprise, Stephanie was out-kicked for second place. Very exciting. Ken asked me many questions. My favorite exchange went like this:
K: So, how many races have you won this year?
D: Um, about 20.
K: Did you say "three"?
D: No, twenty.
K: I mean just this year.
D: Yeah, about 20 this year. Maybe it was only 15. A lot of them are this weekly race series... (etc.)

In the paper, he wrote that it was my 15th or 16th victory of the year, of which 14 were Red Rooster Rambles. In fact (I looked it up this morning) it was my 22nd win of the year, of which 14 were Rambles. So I am slightly less lame than the article suggests.

We ran a nice 3-mile cooldown; we ended up with nice gift certificates as prizes; I won a raffle prize (though not the Red Sox tickets this year), and we returned to the fair later in the day for our free entry with race numbers! It was a great day and I hope to do it again next year. My finishing time was 34:40, which for 5.7 miles is an average pace of 6:05 per mile. So I am sure the course was not quite 5.7, because running 6:06 pace for 5 miles on a flat course at the Red Rooster Ramble absolutely knocked me out. (5.6 miles would be 6:11, which is probably more reasonable.) This is 84 seconds faster than I ran last year (4% faster), and 24 seconds faster than last year's race winner.

The full article, from the Portsmouth Herald:

By Ken Stejbach
July 25, 2010 2:00 AM

STRATHAM — Saturday's 37th annual Stratham Fair Road Race had that "Cheers .... where everyone knows your name" feel about it.

It was a friendly place for the winners — Bob Wiles and Diana Davis — both of whom earned their first Stratham Fair titles.

Wiles, a 32-year-old from Kittery, won the men's title, crossing the finish line in 29 minutes, 34 seconds. Davis, a 24-year-old from Exeter and Providence, R.I., who grew up in Madbury, won the women's title in 34:40.

There were 207 runners who finished the 5.7-mile course, which began and finished at Stratham Hill Park.

Alan Bernier, a well-known local runner who also resides in Exeter and Providence, was second in the men's race in 31:16, while Brandon Gerrish, an 18-year-old from Lebanon, Maine and graduate of Portsmouth Christian Academy, was third in 32:01.

Heidi Nadeau, who grew up in North Hampton and presently resides in Portsmouth, was second in the women's race in 36:58, just edging last year's winner Stephanie Crawford, a two-time winner of the race, who finished in 37:01.

"A couple of young guys took it out good," said Wiles, noting Gerrish was in the lead for the first couple of miles. "We were keeping an eye on him. He was running good."

"I knew I came out a little too fast," said Gerrish, who will attend Texas A&M this fall and hopes to continue his running at the college level.

Gerrish went through the first mile in 5:12.

Wiles ran with his friend, Bernier, for the first couple of miles.

"About two miles in (Bernier) told me I was on my own," said Wiles.

Wiles' win was his 10th of the season.

"I am having a good year," said Wiles. "I'm picking all the right races."

Wiles, who was fourth at the Market Square Day 10K has a best 5K clocking this season of 15:23, which he set in winning the Redhook 5K.

As far as the Stratham race goes ...

"It has a hometown feel to it," said Wiles. "Gary (Rohr, the race director) does a great job and it's a fun way to start the weekend. It's one of those fun races you look forward to every year."

Wiles was second the last couple of years, last year to Lawton Redman, and the year before to Casey Carroll.

"I was hoping the third time was a charm, and I lucked out," said Wiles.

Wiles wasn't the only one who placed second last year.

Davis, who attended Phillips Exeter Academy and now teaches algebra there during the summer, was second last year behind Crawford.

Davis and Crawford also ran the first couple of miles together until a hill began to separate the two.

Davis, who's been running 55-60 miles per week, said she's been getting stronger. Last year her goal was to break 19 minutes in a 5K; this fall she wants to break 18.

For Davis, who ran at Williams College, this was her 15th or 16th win of the year.

"If you want to win, it's a matter of choosing races wisely," said Davis, who is going for her PhD in math at Brown University.

Most of those wins (14 of them) have come in the Red Rooster Ramble Series, a five-mile, 24-race series in Providence.

Her biggest win of the year, however, was the Providence Half-Marathon, which she ran in 1:26.

Crawford, a 33-year-old from Dover and member of the Coastal Athletic Association, said she "just didn't have it" this year. The speech therapist from Easter Seals said she hasn't run in too many races this year.

Nadeau, the former standout javelin thrower at Winnacunnet High School and Penn State University, caught Crawford at the finish.

"It was an all-out high school wild finish," said the 23-year-old Nadeau, who ran almost two minutes faster than she did last year and about eight minutes faster than she did the first time she ran the Stratham Fair race a couple of years ago.

"Every year I try to get faster," said Nadeau, whose goal is to win her first ever race.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Stonington Six - July 3, 2010

(Results) For several years now, I have had a goal: to win my hometown 10k. Now, one could argue that it's not actually my hometown (since I am From Away) and that it's not actually 10k (probably 6.25+). But nevertheless, ever since I won the Fun Run four years in a row back in my youth, my goal has been to come back and win the real race. Let's quickly review the history:

1996, age 10: My first time running the Fun Run. I asked my parents if we could drive the course beforehand so that I would know where to go. They assured me that I would not be winning, so I could just follow all the people in front of me. One mile into a 1.2-mile race, I found myself battling for first place with a 40-year-old lobsterman. We got to a T intersection and I turned left; he turned right. I quickly corrected my error and caught back up. As we sprinted down the final straightaway towards the finish line, he was able to get a slight advantage and beat me by a nose. I have a picture of this somewhere -- it is epic (but not digital). My prize was two lobsters from the co-op!

1997, age 11: I am ready for a rematch with my lobsterman friend. Unfortunately, he is not in the race this year. My brother (31 years old at the time) is running, and he slows down to run with me and then lets me win (we went 1-2). He gives his "first male finisher" prize to the kid who finished behind us. Our dad finishes sixth overall in the fun run. The prize was $10 to the grocery store.

1998, age 12: My brother and I return, but now for whatever reason there are lots of kids from abroad visiting the island and they all decide to run the race. I finish sixth, but first female again. (The prize was $15 to a local restaurant.)

1999, age 13: All the years kind of blur together. I don't know what happened, but I know I won four years in a row. (The prize was a size-large T-shirt from a local museum.)

2000-2007: I was always away for the Fourth of July, so I couldn't run.

2008: I came to the race hoping to win, and I led the first three miles, but then a woman passed me, and at five miles a girl passed me and ended up winning. Happily, she was from the island. A third woman tried to pass me in the last mile, but I held her off. Good thing, because she was in my age group! (And the prize was a $25 gas card, very useful.) I ran either 43 or 44 minutes -- the results got messed up that year and my record-keeping was ambiguous. The winner ran 42 minutes.

2009: This time, I was really in shape, and I thought I would certainly win. However, another woman was doing strides on the starting line! Danger. I held her (Susannah) off for the first mile, but then she passed me and ran away, running about 35 minutes. It turned out that she had been 4th at the Olympic Trials marathon and was the current national champion in the 50-miler. So I didn't really stand a chance. Running alone, though (not even with any men), I still ran 40:36, which was a 10k PR by nearly 1.5 minutes. (The prize was a 6-pack of Poland Springs water and a tote bag.)

2010: Now, finally, maybe it was my chance! Alan said, "last year it took the national champion to beat you, so you'll probably win." Of course, if Susannah had shown up, I would not have won, and if Elizabeth had shown up, it would have been a very tough battle. However, I did finally win it this year.

I was barely able to get onto the starting line, because it was full of young boys all jockeying for position. Alan gave me his spot and I lined up next to a girl in pink:

She took it out at the gun and, from my vantage point behind her, I could see that her shirt said "Manchester Invitational." This meant two things: first, she was a high school cross country runner, and second, she must be young, because the shirt was synthetic. Back in my day, they were cotton. We went back and forth -- she would surge and I would cover it. Then I would surge and she would cover it. She was running a very erratic pace, surging to get ahead of me and then slowing down. I did this for a few minutes, and then decided to put an end to it. I sped up until I had put about 20 feet between us. She didn't catch up. I hazarded a glance as we made a 90-degree turn and she was further back. A little before the two-mile mark, I looked back and there was no one.

Ahead of me were five men: Alan running with a Tufts collegiate runner, then two men that we had seen on our warm-up and thought were twins running together, and then another man close ahead of me. I stayed behind the fifth man and was happy to let him carry me through the tangents on the curvy course. A little before three miles, I felt myself catching up to him, so I passed him and ran on ahead, moving into fifth place overall. The rest of the race was relatively uneventful except for the usual tug-of-war between my desire to run the tangents and my desire to avoid the cars. I was fortunate that the walkers, who had a 30-minute head start, ran interference (walked interference?) for me on much of the course.

I got to the 6-mile mark in exactly 38 minutes, the same as in the MDI YMCA 10k where I ended up running 38:55. In Stonington, from 6 miles to the end you bomb down this steep downhill, make a turn and then kick for the finish. So it should have been faster than at the MDI. However, I finished in 39:31. So I think the course was a little long, or 6 miles was short. (It should be noted that my split from 6 miles to the end was the same as Alan's, so I was not lollygagging.) I was surprised to look at my popsicle stick and see a "4" on it, since I knew I was fifth! But one of the twins (?) had made a wrong turn and cut off maybe 1/2 mile of the course, finishing ahead of Alan, so he was disqualified.

By the way, it turned out that the girl in pink was running the Fun Run (they start together, and split at about 1 mile). She and her brother went 1-2 in that race. I won the 10k by over seven minutes. Like I always say -- "The key to winning races is choosing your races wisely."

I chatted with some people I knew; then we ran back along the course until we met my brother and sister-in-law, and we ran with them to the end, and then cooled down back to the car. (They ran about the same as last year, but a little slower.) Ironically, in our rush to drive to the parade, we forgot to go to the awards! After all those years of hoping to win. But it's really about the pride, not the schwag. Luckily the rest of the family was still down at the finish area and picked up our prizes for us, which were nice blue duffel bags with the race logo. Sweet! I even managed to get in a swim later in the day, and much fun was had by all.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Red Rooster Ramble #13

(Results) Almost as soon as the MDI YMCA 10k ended on Saturday, I wanted another chance. I had let my focus and mental toughness lapse, and I was not happy about it. So I was eager to avenge this at another race.

While I was in Maine for two weeks, a super-fast Brown runner (Lauren) ran the Red Rooster Ramble and beat my course record. As loyal readers will recall, my course-record-setting run was not intended to be anything special; I was just trying to run under 31 minutes. However, last week Lauren showed up and ran 30:45 and beat my time, so this week was a good occasion for me to run hard, focus, exercise my mental toughness, and try to take back the course record, for whatever that's worth.

I asked Haynes if he would run with me, and he agreed to do so as the first 30 minutes of a 40-minute tempo run. He even brought his Garmin watch to keep us on pace! Our goal was 6:06 pace with a goal time of 30:30, just to be safe.

We had agreed not to go out too fast, and during the first mile Haynes kept checking his watch to make sure we were on pace. Eric was running with us, and Haynes told him that I was trying to break the course record. Eric had run with Lauren last week when she broke it, so he thought that was cool. We went through the mile in 6:02, a perfect time. I like to go out just a little under my goal pace, so that I know I can do it.

During the second mile, a guy in Vibrams passed our little group of three and eventually put about a 30-meter gap on us. At one point, Eric said, "he's slowing down; you've got him!" but I did not see him slowing down and I never got closer to him. We passed two miles in 12:08 for a 6:06 second mile, right on pace. Now it was starting to get hard, so I just thought about the turn at 2.5 miles and said, just run on pace until that point. We got to 2.5 miles on Haynes' watch and he reported a 3:04 half mile. Fine by me. We made the turn onto the busier road and I opted for the sidewalk, as we were making a gradual left turn. I don't know which is better; the sidewalk is shorter but it goes up and down at each driveway. I focused on just getting to 3 miles on pace.

This we did. Haynes reported a 2:57 (!) half mile, as we passed 3 miles in 18:11. This was 11 seconds faster than I had passed 3 miles in last weekend's 10k, but that one involved hills and this one did not. When Haynes announced the time, Eric said, "that's way faster than last week -- you've got it!" and accelerated away to try to catch the kid in Vibrams. In reality, of course, simply making it to 3 miles in a good time did not guarantee that I would make it to 5 miles in a good time!

The fourth mile was rough. My legs were hurting, and several times I realized I was taking longer, slower strides. This makes me feel slow and also slows down my breathing. Each time, I consciously increased my stride rate, taking faster though shorter strides, and accelerated until I was on Haynes' shoulder again. We made it to 4 miles in 24:22 -- five seconds faster than the flat 4-mile race I ran in May. I had thought I was struggling and running slowly, so I was pleased that the damage was only a 6:11. Not that bad.

The last mile was rough. The battle was between the part of me that said, "look how hard I'm breathing! look how much my legs hurt! I must be working as hard as possible; I can't go any faster!" and the part that said, "quicken the strides, smooth out the form, go faster, faster, faster..." With half a mile to go, Haynes took off in pursuit of Eric and the kid in Vibrams.

I checked my watch at the "1/4" spray-painted on the pavement and it said 29:00. I was confused. Huh? It took a few seconds for me to realize, okay, 90 seconds for a quarter and I'd come in at 30:30. I kicked... Alan was running back along the course towards me, saying something about "it's okay, Diana" and "only 10 seconds left." I was confused again -- was it impossible for me to hit the time, and he was just saying that it's okay if I don't break the record? It seems like more than 10 seconds between me and the finish line! Huh?

I saw 30:31 as I crossed. I'd done it! My official time was 30:32. Whew. Alan had been telling me that I was going to be 10 seconds under the record. After I crossed the line, I held on to the fence for support. Apparently, I was shaking (I don't remember this). I tried to walk away, and ended up staggering around like a drunk person. So I attempted to sit on the ground, which ended up in me sprawled awkwardly on the grass, so I just rolled onto my back and lay there with my eyes closed. Some old guy came up. "Does she have asthma?" he asked. "No, I have the spins," I replied, because the dots on my eyelids were spinning in circles. Eventually I sat up and sat on a rock. This whole process took about five minutes until I was confident in my ability to walk to the water table without embarrassing myself. Bear in mind, I have never done anything other than walk away from the race. Such theatrics are a first for me -- and it was not theatrics! After the five minutes of laying on the ground and sitting, my hamstrings and calves had contracted and now they were very tight. I did the first quarter mile of the cool-down in nearly 2:30!

This time of 30:32 is only 16 seconds off of my PR, set at the 5-mile mark of the Tufts 10k (30:16). It is my PR for a 5-mile race. I am quite happy with it. I ran 33 miles in the three days before the race, which may account for my difficulty walking away from the race afterwards. Tactics-wise, it would have been wiser to run every RRR in 32 minutes until Lauren starts training with the team in the fall, and then sneak in and nab the course record back. But I feel like this is something I needed to do, to convince myself that I have the mental toughness necessary for racing.


(Results) The day started nicely, with my nephew and niece sweeping the kids' 1-mile fun run after less than two weeks of running training! My nephew was first overall in 6:56 and my niece was fourth overall and first girl in 7:37. After a start like that, I was of course expected to continue the family winning tradition and take home the 10k win. I looked around and there didn't seem to be any fast-looking females. Then I got to the starting line, and there was a woman in a black sports bra and shorts with an extremely well-defined vertical line down her abs. Huh. This could be a problem. You can see us in this picture:

The first 3.5 miles of the course were out and back on a street in Bar Harbor which involved going up a hill and down the other side, then turning around and doing it again. This woman (Elizabeth) and I passed the miles right on each other's shoulders in 6:08, 12:13 and 18:22. Fast times, despite the hills. We came back past the start/finish lines and I made the mistake of taking a cup of water (it was humid out). Elizabeth got about 10 meters on me.

At that point, I gave in to the demons that tell me it would be so much easier if I just slowed down. I slowed down to about 6:30 pace and watched Elizabeth run away. Around mile 5 or so, a man passed me. In the final stretch, I nearly outkicked him, but he kicked and held me off (see photo below). In the end, Elizabeth ran 38:04 to my 38:59. It turns out that she is a well-known local runner, and she told all her colleagues and friends that she would be running, which explains all the people cheering for her on the sidewalks with posters.

Funny story about the sprint finish: Two days before, as we were finishing our 3/4-mile training run, my nephew sprinted for the end. I accelerated and hung on his shoulder, matching his pace from just behind him. After we finished and slowed down, he asked me if I was running my fastest. I thought for a moment -- should I lie, to boost his ego? "No," I said, "but remember, I've practiced a lot." The next day, as we were walking along the beach, he asked to race me. "Sorry," I said, "but I have a race tomorrow. I'll race you right after I finish." As I was sprinting for the finish in the 10k, out of the corner of my eye I saw my nephew racing me on the sidewalk. I kicked hard and outran him. I think this was the best possible way to do it, because I didn't have to out-sprint him in a one-on-one race and make him feel bad, and yet he got to race me on his own terms.

I was very unhappy with my giving up halfway through, and I decided to avenge my poor performance in the Red Rooster Ramble five days later. This picture basically sums up my feelings about my performance relative to Elizabeth's:

Sunday, May 30, 2010

10k By The Bay

(Results) I almost didn't do this race. I was scheduled to give a math talk at the same time as the race start -- 10 am. However, this race presented such a perfect confluence of circumstances that my friends finally convinced me that I should re-schedule the talk and do the race. In particular, $200 was on the line and the majority of Rhode Island's fast women were out of town for the weekend -- Katie, Jackie, Michaela, Vicky, and Karen were all away -- leaving only Steph and Trish as likely competitors. So I went. My parents were here for the weekend, so they drove me down to Warwick.

I got there an hour and 15 minutes early, but they were already out of size small race shirts (and I was only #82 to sign up). We sat in the shade and I showed off my ability to identify my competition: My parents pointed out a pair of fit-looking women jogging across the grass and asked if I thought they would be fast. "They'll probably run 43 or 44 minutes," I predicted. My mom grumbled about this -- "I wonder if you would have looked at me before my 44-minute 10k and predicted me to run 48 or 49 minutes!" -- but in the end, only one of the two raced, and she finished in about 43:40, just as I predicted.

When I got to the line after warming up, I once again exhibited my poor prediction quality when it comes to masters-age runners (as I did at the Bedford Rotary 5k last weekend). There was a very skinny woman wearing just a sports bra and shorts. I was definitely worried, because she looked like she would be really fast (and if you had asked, I would have guessed her age to be 28). I whispered to Clay to see if he knew who she was, and he just said "gimme a break!" He turned out to be right...

The air horn went off and I found myself in about tenth place behind a bunch of guys. Over the course of the first half mile down the long driveway of the organization, I passed some overzealous men and soon found myself tucking in behind a pair of men. I sensed that I was not going 6-minute pace as I had planned, but decided to go with it. We passed the mile in 6:18 and I darted out from behind the guys and surged ahead. One of the guys laughed -- "I guess someone wasn't happy with that split!" -- and one, in a red singlet (in the results as Tom), came with me while the other stayed behind. I locked onto Tom's shoulder and hung on through two miles, with a second mile split of 6:28. He cut the tangents like a pro, and I was right there.

Somewhere in the third mile, Tom apparently decided he didn't want to run with me, and put in a surge, which I didn't cover, so he was maybe 50 feet ahead of me, a gap that stayed constant for the next few miles. At this point, two men were way ahead, Clay was maybe 100 meters ahead of me, and then Tom was 50 feet ahead of me. So Clay was in the money as third male, and I was in fifth place overall. Miles three and four were both around 6:30. Mile five slipped to 6:37, but this part of the course had many turns and it is possible that I didn't cut the tangents as closely as Ray did when he measured it. Anyway, it was hot and we were just winding our way among many turns in a housing development for most of miles four and five.

Just before the 5-mile mark, it got interesting. Clay, who had been running 6-minute pace, suddenly lost his speed and started coming back. I shouted ahead to him, to let him know that someone was coming to take away his third-place spot. But it was no use; Tom overtook him. But actually, I was getting closer too! By they time I passed Clay -- incredulously! -- the gap between me and Tom was about half as big as before. So I made my move and caught up to him and passed him right as we got back onto the driveway of the organization, with about a half mile to go.

I derive much inspiration from passing people and wanting to hold them off. Whereas I ran mile five in 6:37, I ran mile six in 6:20. I was quite happy to be third overall and I didn't want to see that disappear. Also, after passing six miles in 38:41, I thought I could probably dip under 40 minutes, which before the race would have seemed depressingly slow but now was looking pretty good. I kicked the last mile and down the hill to the finish line and managed to finish in 39:55 and third overall. Tom was 14 seconds back, all over the last half mile (and Clay was 30 seconds back). As it turns out, I was the only person under 40 years old in the top five, and the second female was two and a half minutes behind me, despite her weighing about half as much as I do.

I did a 4-mile cool down, part of it with Clay and his young daughter, so that I could count it as a "long run" and not have to try to squeeze in a long run on graduation day. The awards ceremony was successful, as I received cash and my parents were duly impressed that running had become so lucrative. $200 is the most I have ever won in a race, the previous being $175 ($50 for winning + $100 for course record + $25 gas card for double-dipping age division, last August). Unlike last year, this year the calculation (money won) - (money spent on entry fees) actually yields a positive number! But this will make up for the fall, when I do things like race at Franklin Park when dozens of very fast people show up and all I win from my entry fee is a fun race and a warm sense of well-being -- like in the half marathon, when I paid $50 and "all" I won was five minutes of fame, some good finishing pictures, an awesome story to tell the grandchildren, and a nice supply of happiness and glory that is still carrying me along.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bedford Rotary 5k

(Results) I opted to do the 5k this year rather than the 12k, because I didn't have a great experience last year (I ran the 12k while sick) and wasn't too excited about doing it. So I simply watched the 12k and cheered for Alan and his teammates and Caitlin, and hydrated while hoping that it wouldn't get too hot by 11 am.

I warmed up on the course with the map in hand, but didn't get much of a feel for the course because the starting line was kind of far from the parking lot where I started and the race was a lollipop. So it goes. I was distressed to see on the starting line a really fast-looking woman. She appeared to be a master's runner with no body fat, clearly defined muscles and perhaps capable of running a 17-minute 5k. Well, there went my chances for this race! I loitered around near the starting line and some guy told me he recognized me and asked if I did the Newburyport track races. That seemed weird because I only did one, in fall 2008, in which I ran 5:58 for a mile (all out). Whatever. He introduced himself and asked what I wanted to run, and I said 18:30.

I lined up on the starting line and there were multiple photographers taking pictures. I used to feel bad about lining up on the starting line, because many of the men would likely beat me. But I have learned that it's okay to line up on the starting line if you're going to (try to) win. In this case I ended up 9th overall, so it was justified.

The gun went off and a guy (Dennis) running next to me said, "I heard you say you want to run 18:30. That makes you my new best friend." I introduced myself and he said he planned to run the first mile in exactly 6 minutes flat. That was okay with me. But I was thinking, wait, that doesn't sound right, 6 minutes flat is too slow for 18:30, isn't it? However, I was planning to start out conservatively because of the heat. Alan said "it's looking really good," meaning that no one was close behind me, so I didn't have to kill myself to establish a lead in the first mile. Dennis pulled away over the second half mile of the race and got to the mile mark a few seconds ahead of me, but I still got there in 5:58.

Over the next mile or so Dennis lengthened out his lead somewhat, catching up to a very little boy who had gone out ahead of us. I was afraid that I would run the second mile slower than the first, because he was getting ahead of me and because I usually run the second one slower. So I was pleasantly surprised to reach two miles in 11:51, for a 5:53 second mile. Not tearing up the pavement by any means, but not slowing down, either. I caught the little boy just before the 2-mile mark. He ended up being just 12 years old. Two miles in 12 minutes is pretty impressive for a 12-year-old, I think. This put me in 10th place.

As I turned back onto the road we had started on (I said it was a lollipop) Alan looked behind me and said, "you have at least 20 seconds on the next woman." Now, this could mean two things -- either "I can see a woman and she is at least 20 seconds behind you," or "I can't see anyone behind you but I can only see about 20 seconds down the course." I decided to assume the former, but it turned out to be the latter.

On long straight road, I caught Dennis. He told me I ran a smart race as I passed by. I got to the track (stadium finish!) and kicked like it was a track race, trying to catch the guy ahead of me. I was running fast enough that I was surprised that he wasn't getting any closer -- he must have been kicking hard, too. Just before I crossed the line I saw the clock and it said 18:33, so I knew I hadn't broken 18:30. So it goes. These cute cheerleaders held up a finish tape and some photographers took a picture. The little kid finshed about 30 seconds later, and his dad asked if I would pose with him for a picture! Gosh, that's the first time anyone's ever asked to take a picture with me. I was honored. Oh yes, and the very fast-looking woman finished 4th in 20 minutes. Still fast!

The timing company added about 6 seconds to everyone's finish time -- mine was reported as 18:41. The guy who won the 12k finished in 37:13, and they reported it as 37:19, which is too bad because he set a course record and it's 6 seconds slower than it should be. (My stopwatch and the finish clock agreed exactly.) So now I know that if I want to break 18 minutes at a race timed by this company, I should run 17:50 just to be safe! (easier said than done)

They did the awards ceremony before I even finished cooling down -- it was over by 11:45. That was surprising! Luckily Alan was there to pick up my medal and put down my mailing address. But happily, there was plenty of food left and we got a good lunch before setting out to hike a few mountains and then go camping.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

West Bay YMCA Run 4 Fun

(Results) This seemed like a perfect race -- $100 for first, $50 for second, and only the first-place male competitive for the past two years (last year the second-place male ran 26 minutes for 4 miles and the top two females about 4 minutes slower). So Melissa, Haynes and I headed out to try to grab some fast times and three of the top four places.

The race was hard to find! It was in an industrial area around Electric Boat, with broad empty streets, manicured lawns and trees, and huge warehouses. Well-maintained, perfectly flat, and completely devoid of human life. We couldn't find the road we were supposed to take, and we encountered another guy also looking for the race, but we managed to find a parking lot separated from the race area by just a fence, so we managed to get there.

Registration was uneventful... until the Brown track team showed up! Two of them had just run their last collegiate race the night before, so it was the first day of their entire lives when they could compete for cash, and here they were to do it! So Haynes knew that his chance of second place was now zero.

... and then Jenna showed up! I have run with Jenna once a week all this year and twice a week last year, and I probably know more about her training than anyone other than her, but still I had no good guess as to how fast she would run. Her 5k PR is about 2 minutes faster than mine, but it was three years ago and she hasn't trained much recently, so who really knew what she could do? Haynes shared his helpful opinion that no matter how out of shape you get, you can still run one minute slower than your PR for 5k. If that was the case, she would surely beat me.

We did our 2-mile warm-up jog with the map. It was a confusing course with multiple loops around the same roads in different directions, but by the end of 16 minutes all three of us knew exactly where to go. When we got to the starting line, it turned out we were the only ones who knew where we were going! Lucky for the others, there were volunteers at the intersections.

The gun went off and a woman in pink sprinted away. Luckily, I had watched Alan's 5k in Central Falls two weeks ago and I had seen this woman do the same thing and then finish in 20:30 or something, so I was not concerned. I passed her after a minute or two, and the four of us (pink lady, Jenna, Melissa) ran together. Jenna offered to lead so that I wouldn't have to break the wind for everyone the whole time, and I acquiesced. We passed the mile in 6:00, and at maybe 1.5 miles I took the lead back and let her draft off me again. (Drafting at 6-minute pace may seem dumb, but there was actually some breeze since these roads were close to the ocean.)

We passed 2 miles in 12:11, for a 6:11 second mile. Now we were on the lollipop portion of the course, out on a straight road, do a little triangle, and then back on the straight road. As we entered the triangle, the lead guys (the two Brown track guys) were finishing the triangle, and they were shouting ahead asking the volunteers which way to go! When we finished the triangle at about 2.5 miles, Jenna was still right on my shoulder. We were running into a headwind, and I had a choice: drop back and let her lead again so I can draft, or try to open up a gap. I chose the latter. Jenna hung on for maybe 30 seconds, and then the sound of her breathing gradually became further away. I went through three miles in 18:22, so another 6:11 mile. However, I would never discount anyone's finishing speed, so I didn't think I was out of the woods at all. I continued to press, only glancing back once when we made a 90-degree turn, and I discovered I had somewhat of a cushion.

Now I was following two guys, Haynes in front and then a somewhat older guy between us. We were running along a loop that we'd done twice in the other direction, and suddenly Haynes took a right! Without thinking, I shouted, "are you sure? Haynes!" and he turned around and came back to the course, just behind me, and immediately passed me and ran ahead. Now there was about half a mile to go. I passed the older guy and ran somewhat behind Haynes. Now the question was, would I try to out-kick him? The answer is no: I tried to out-kick him at the end of a run once, and his top speed was just enough faster than mine so that I knew I didn't have much chance. We both kicked, and he finished one second (!) ahead of me, 24:26 to 24:27. In the race for second place, Jenna got Melissa by two seconds (!). All four of us finished within a span of just 30 seconds. Gosh, what a race! (In the men's race, Eric caught the Brown guys and won by quite a large margin.)

The three of us did our 2-mile cool-down on a shady road (unlike the race course, which was in direct sun due to its being completely manicured) and then added on another half mile with the Brown track people while we waited for the awards. Those guys were really funny! It was the most fun half mile of the day, with the guys joking around and everyone laughing.

At the awards ceremony, they did the raffle first and ALL of us won prizes! Three of us plus all three from the Brown team (two guys and Jenna). The prizes we ended up with were not so good -- gift cards to the YMCA and one of those RoadID discount cards -- but it was free! Much better than nothing!

They announced the winners and had us sign for our cash. They had decided to only give out $75 and $40 instead of $100 and $50! I expressed my surprise to the nice lady giving out the awards, but you can't really complain when they're giving out cash. Later, I wondered what the etiquette is in such a situation: They advertise $100 for the winner, and then when you win, they give only $75. Is that dishonest of them? Probably. Is it within their rights to do it? I guess so. It would be a big deal if the Boston Marathon, for instance, advertised $100k for the winner and then only paid out $75k, but in a tiny local road race you take what you can get, I guess.

We left shortly after and did another 4 miles, stopping by the race area one last time to ask a question about the YMCA certificates. The nice lady said she was so glad to see me, because they had decided to change it and pay out the full amounts! So I signed for my extra $25. Then I realized I would be seeing everyone else who won money later this week, so she allowed me to pick up their cash, too.

Now I was in the extremely unusual position of running with $70 in my key pocket! That's definitely something I've never done before and don't plan to do again! In all, the three of us had fun and everyone agreed it was a good race and a good day.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Rhode Races half marathon

Sunday, May 2 dawned cloudy and humid. I had been concerned about the heat, so I literally drank about a gallon of water the day before to ensure that I was fully hydrated. I do not do well in the heat -- a few years ago, as soon as warm weather hit I would find myself with my heart rate at 180 bpm struggling to run 10 minutes per mile -- so I wanted to take every precaution.

Brett was running the marathon, so Alan gave both of us a ride down to the start (otherwise I would have run). I did a one-mile warmup on the course, not wanting to do too much since 13 miles is a long way. I was happy to find a row of 50 port-a-potties near the start, but was shocked to find that each one had a line of 10 people for it! So I gave up on that idea; you can use your imagination about that. I saw my photographer friend George at the start and he asked if he could take some pictures of me. Here is the nice result (from this slideshow):

However, I also found someone else on the starting line, a fast-looking woman in BAA gear. Never one to beat around the bush, I introduced myself, shook her hand and asked what she was planning to run. She told me her name, and I immediately knew that my chances of winning the race were now slim to none -- this was someone who had won Penn Relays, and who had beaten me by at least a minute in all the cross country races last fall. She said she was planning to do a 10-mile workout with some miles at 6:15 pace, and then see how she felt for the last couple of miles. I was pretty sure that anyone with times like hers would feel just fine for the last few miles! At that moment, I would have put my chances of winning at under 5%. I vowed to just run my own race and try to run a big PR (my previous best was 1:30:47). Trish came to the line and we shook hands. I also ran into a couple of other friends on the starting line, Jim (from other Providence races) and Katie (one of my captains in college).

The gun went off and I was mostly worried about the huge video camera arm that was across half of the road. However, it swept away just before I got there. Alan said I could run 6:20 pace (1:23), so I positioned myself behind Mariko, who had said she would run 6:15s. I went through the mile in 6:12 and realized why Trish was not beside me; she was running a more intelligent pace! I tried to back off a little for the second mile and ran 6:16. However, I apparently had no trouble backing off in the third mile, when I split 6:40. I was concerned about this, but Alan was right there on the bicycle saying "nice job, right on pace." We both knew that 6:40 was not "right on pace," but no matter. My friend David caught up at this point and slowly increased his gap on me as we ran up Blackstone. I was pleasantly surprised to hear several people cheer for me by name, including a college teammate I haven't talked to since I graduated!

Here is a picture from the first mile.

Alan was riding ahead on the bike and timing the gap for me. I had given up on my short-lived attempt to maintain contact with Mariko, and she quickly put a 30-second gap between us. I went through five miles in about 32:30, and it occurred to me that this is about what I've been running at the Red Rooster Ramble recently, so that was good practice.

I was running with a tall guy in a black and yellow singlet (in the results as Isaac; see photo below) and this woman wearing a Team in Training outfit kept coming by on a bike saying things like "two minutes back from the leaders." I assumed that Isaac must be running for Team in Training, and this woman was giving him updates. However, Alan later told me that Isaac was wearing headphones so he couldn't hear anything, and the woman was actually MY escort, and was giving ME updates on my position! Crazy. I wish I had known at the time, so I could have used the information or at least thanked the woman for riding along with me the whole way. I'm confused, though, because at 7 miles or so she was saying the gap was 3 minutes, which is too much gap for the lead female (who was maybe 1-2 minutes ahead of me) but not enough for the lead male (who was at least 10 minutes ahead by then).

Alan had stopped giving me time updates about Mariko, either because it took too long to ride all the way up there and then wait for me, or because she was so far ahead that I was never going to catch her and so it was uselessly depressing information. He was timing the gap between me and Trish, though, which was about 35 seconds. This gap was pretty constant for the middle of the race, I think. My theory is that I went out too fast and put a 35-second gap between us in the first two miles, and then we both basically ran the same speed for the remainder of the race.

I went through 10 miles in about 65.5 minutes, a long way from the 63:20 that Alan had suggested I try to run. I like to think of the half marathon as 10 miles plus a 5k, so I decided I had to run the last 5k in 19:30 in order to run under 1:26. Now that I have typed that, I realize that it is wrong -- 19:30 would have put me at 1:25. Ha! (Just remember, I'm a mathematician, not an arithmetician, and I'm neither one during a race when my higher faculties are just in survival mode.) I did manage to pass some people in this mile, a body-builder looking guy whom Alan had told me to reel in and pass starting at mile 6, and my friend Jim who was walking every so often.

Does this look like a fast runner? No! It looks like a slow runner! Looking slow is good camouflage.

It was around this time that Alan started giving updates on Mariko again. "She's only 35 seconds ahead of you! You can catch her!" I was thinking that in this case A certainly did not imply B, because 35 seconds is a lot, and we're talking about someone fast here. I would have to run 10 seconds per mile faster than her, and she was fast, so it was probably not going to happen. I could not see her ahead of me and I had no indication that she was coming back.

Mile 11 was up the Pitman Street hill, and I ran it in 7 minutes. 7 minutes! In that one mile alone, the distance between Trish and me went from 45 seconds down to 30. Alan was telling me that Mariko was only 25 seconds ahead now and I could catch her, but 25 was still a big number! I ran down Gano Street to India Point Park and Michaela was at the water stop, telling me that the leader was only 10-20 seconds ahead and I could catch her. I was disoriented because the course map had said that the first two miles were the same as the last two miles, but we were diverted onto the path rather than the road. No matter; the yellow singlet had appeared in front of me. All odds to the contrary, she had actually slowed down enough that I was once again close enough to see her! In short order I passed her, said "good job" incredulously, and ran on towards downtown Providence. This was just about at the 12-mile mark.

Well, now I was really running scared, because I was the pursued -- two fast women were behind me and I couldn't see them at all. I ran under a bridge with a bunch of police officers under it and I heard one say "just stick with our original plan!" Then there were motorcycles passing me and converging in front of me. The motorcycle escort was so exciting at last year's Rhode Races 5k, and at the St. Pats 5k, but this year I was just concerned about getting myself to the finish line as soon as possible. I ran under another bridge and another friend was there on a bike. He told me I was 100 meters ahead of the next woman. That did not seem very far to me and so I was very worried as I ran.

Apparently Alan was not worried, because with half a mile to go, he told me where he had hidden the house key and rode off to go cheer for Brett out on the bike path! (He changed his mind and followed me to the end, I guess to see if I broke 1:26.)

Finally, I managed to make the final turn towards the finish line. I glimpsed the time clock and I saw it said "55" at the end, and my instincts said "speed up and you can beat the next minute" (whatever that might be). I vaguely perceived that something was blocking the way on the right side of the finish line, so I aimed towards the left side. Then I realized that people were pointing me over towards the right, and the thing that was blocking the way was the tape. Again, I was so excited to break the tape at St. Pats, and this day it hadn't even crossed my mind to think about it!

This video includes a clip of me breaking the tape (please excuse the 10-second ad before the video clip):

I had gotten a lot of crap for raising my arms over the tape at St. Pats, so this time I just ran through the thing. However, the following picture, which appeared on coolrunning, gives the impression that I ran into the tape with my face and choked myself with it (you can see a guy in a Team in Training shirt on the bike behind me, apparently my bike escort -- they are also visible in the video above):

They gave me a minute to catch my breath and then called me over for the live TV interview. I called Trish over because I thought she deserved to be interviewed just as much as I did. Here we are:

George Ross took closeups of us being interviewed. Here is mine:

We were interviewed on TV for a few minutes and then I was led away to do the microphone interview with the announcer guy. I tried to speak slowly and enunciate, because I know you can rarely understand what people are saying when they get interviewed at the end of their race. The guy asked me, "you won the 5k last year and the half marathon this year; are you going to win the marathon next year?" I said "we'll see." Here is the microphone interview:

Then a woman led me away to do a third (!) interview, this time with three people at once and for print. They held up pocket microphones and asked questions. After that was finished, I asked the woman who those reporters were and she said they were the ProJo and the New England Runner! I don't know if they weren't able to have extended interviews with other runners or what, but half of the ProJo article ended up being about the women's half marathon:

PROVIDENCE — She’d already run a lot of 5K races this season and hadn’t run a half-marathon since March of last year. So Diana Davis decided it was time to bump up the distance.

It proved to be a very good decision, as the 24-year-old Brown University grad student won the women’s title at Sunday’s Shape Up RI Half Marathon. Clocking a winning time of 1 hour, 25 minutes and 59 seconds, Davis joined 31-year-old Phil Reutlinger on the medals podium. The attorney with the U.S. Navy stationed in New London, Conn., won the men’s half-marathon title in 1:12:36.


Davis, who trains with the Brown University Running Club while she pursues her Ph.D. in mathematics, describes Sunday’s victory as the biggest of her young running career.

“I love this course,” she said. “It’s basically all the runs that I do stitched together. … I really love the course, and that we didn’t have to go over College Hill. That was perfect.”

Initially, Davis thought the best she could hope for was second place, given the sizeable lead that 28-year-old physician’s assistant Mariko Holbrook of Somerville, Mass., established early on. But Davis began steadily closing the gap over the last four miles or so, and by mile 12 she overtook Holbrook, then held on for the win.

In third place most of the way, defending champion Trish Hillery also passed Holbrook and finished second with a time of 1:26:34.

Because the race started at 8:00, I was done by 9:30 am. I hung around the finishing area for half an hour or so, and was happy to see basically everyone I knew who was in the race. Everyone I talked to had run a PR! I think the running club had 100% PRs in the half marathon, with the exception of someone who's been injured and just ran it for fun. Sarah and I waited for the awards ceremony for about an hour, and then I went back to the finish line to ask them when the awards was going to be, and while I was up there they did the awards! So I missed them. I fished around in the box later, though, and took my plaque. Then I waited around for another three hours for the marathon/5k awards ceremony to see if there was any sort of gift certificate that went with the plaque, but there wasn't. I did get to chat with just about everyone I knew there, including my friend from college who had cheered for me on the course, and my friend Jim whom I had passed around mile 11 when he had to stop and walk.

I still haven't said "I won a half marathon" out loud. What a crazy thought. When people asked me how my race went, I said, "it went fine," or "I ran 1:26," and only told them my place when asked directly (I'm working on humility). I've been running 6 miles a day at 8-minute pace and my legs have been sore. I also ended up with a blister under my toenail (which I could feel during the race), the same toenail that acted up for the first time during the last leg of 100 on 100.

We got Chinese food after the Turtles and Alan picked up the ProJo sports section lying on the table, and it turns out they had a race preview article on Sunday, which was mostly about cancer but also mentioned me.

If any number of things had gone differently, I wouldn't have won this race. I am happy with it, and I am looking forward to running faster in the future. Marathon? Maybe!

Photos taken from Digital Photo Concept and Capstone Photo.