What a great day I had yesterday!
Barb and I actually went down to Hartford on Friday morning. Our first stop was the XL Center in downtown Hartford to get my race packet and hit the expo. After our experience at the ZOO that is the Boston Marathon expo, we found the process in Hartford to be much more manageable and easy to navigate. After picking up a t-shirt and a cool orange hoody sweatshirt (everything ING touches is orange!), we left the expo to soak up a little Hartford culture and to find some grub. Everywhere we looked, there were reminders of what was ahead of me on Saturday:
|on the streets surrounding the XL Center|
|really got psyched when I saw this one!|
Soon, we were headed to a local joint that specializes in hot dogs that Barb had found on TripAdvisor. “Woody’s” is a downtown Hartford landmark, and we were not disappointed. With bellies full of hotdogs, we then headed off to East Hartford (just across the Connecticut River from downtown) to the lovely Hampton Inn. The girls behind the desk we decked out in ING t-shirts (orange, of course!) and were very welcoming, giving us a discount on our room due to some difficulty with the reservation. Once we got to the room, I couldn’t believe what I found waiting for me….how very thoughtful!
|Nice touch, ING......put a HUGE smile on my face!|
After relaxing for a while in our lovely room (I’m not kidding….it was clean, the bathroom was huge, and the beds were comfy), we headed out to dinner. We always like to try to find places frequented by locals when we travel, instead of relying on chain restaurants, so following the recommendation of the desk girls, we headed off to Al Fresco’s for some Italian food. The food was great, the servings ENORMOUS, and we left satisfied and ready to relax! Back to the hotel we went, and then I finally had time to start to worry about the weather. As my loyal readers know, I’ve had some difficulty in the past dealing with weather on Marathon Day, and as it turned out, this day would also be challenging, as most of New England was under a freeze warning. The temps were going to rise during the day, but it was going to be COLD at the start, but thankfully, there was no rain OR wind being forecast, so I knew I could handle it. After putting together my running outfit, I was about to shut out the lights when I heard “boom” coming from outside. Turns out there was a full-on fireworks display that went on for about 15 minutes, ending the day on a festive note.
We awoke in the pre-dawn darkness and I, naturally, had to check the temperature…27 degrees. Barb headed down to the lobby to get some oatmeal and coffee, while I tried to calm my nerves and get my gear on. I was opting for shorts instead of tights, with a longsleeve tech shirt under a short sleeve tech shirt. It’s a combo I’ve used before for colder runs and have always been comfortable with it. With some lightweight fleece gloves and a headband to keep my ears warm, I was good to go. Barb returned from the lobby with hands full, trying to balance containers full of hot oatmeal, along with two cups of hot coffee. She said the lobby was full of other runners all trying to decide whether to go with tights or shorts…..so I clearly wasn’t alone! All of a sudden, it was 7AM and it was time to walk from the hotel, over the Founders Bridge, and into downtown Hartford to the start area in Bushnell Park. I originally had planned to hook up with the 4:30 pace group, but had instead decided to be a bit more conservative and join the 4:45 group, as I figured that would give me the best chance at beating my previous marathon PR of 4:58, set almost exactly 3 years ago at the Bay State Marathon. Never having run with a pace group before, I really didn’t know what to expect, but thought that at the very least, I could run with a group of similar runners who might be fun to run with.
Right before the start, I felt the need to visit the portalet…..normally, I do this several times before the start, but I had gone before leaving the hotel and thought I’d be ok…..wrong! Before I could sprint away to find on, the horn sounded and we were on our way….shuffling slowly up to the start line.
|It was cold, but we were ready to run!!!!|
Almost immediately, we were in front of the 4:30 pacer and pace group (more on that later!), and chugging our way through downtown Hartford. In spite of the cold, there were a large number of people out to cheer on the runners (about 2500 in the Marathon, 6000 in the Half Marathon, and another 2000+ in the 5K), which made the start a lot of fun. Unfortunately, my nagging feeling wasn’t going away, but as we were running through the middle of a city, it wasn’t like there were lots of places to go……so just after the first mile, when I saw a guy in front of me dash off to some bushes near a highway overpass, I took a quick detour to “take care of business”……by the time I got back on the road, however, my pace group was gone and I was on my own. Considering that I’ve always trained alone, I was ok with it, but knew now that I was going to be running my own race.
I cannot really be honest and describe the Hartford course as being “pretty”…..it’s basically an urban marathon, running through the streets of downtown, then out through business areas, before finally starting a long out-and-back stretch (miles 10-24) encompassing some nice neighborhoods, but there wasn’t any stretch that was particularly scenic. The early miles of the marathon were pretty interesting, though, because they encompassed a stretch of about 3 miles on a bike path which runs along the Connecticut River. I was too busy trying not to get pushed off the path by other runners with their earbuds in…..while I fully understand why some people like to listen to music while running, I find that they usually have no idea where they are in space, making them dangerous to other runners. Normally, on a wide road, it’s easy to steer clear, but on this path, it was pretty tight quarters. I was running fairly consistent splits (more on that later), but that still left me needing to maneuver around slower runners.
I hit the halfway point at 2:21:56…..if I could manage to not COMPLETELY fall apart on the back half, I would be almost certain to get a new PR. As this course was pretty flat, I was feeling confident, but not overly so….I was feeling some discomfort in my hips and feet….nothing major, but enough that might make a strong finish problematic. The splits so far were pretty consistent:
Mile 1: 10:59
Mile 2: 10:52
Mile 3: 10:02
Mile 4: 10:31
Mile 5: 10:24
Mile 6: 10:31
Mile 7: 10:54
Mile 8: 10:03
Mile 9: 10:42
Mile 10: 10:31
Mile 11: 10:30
Mile 12: 10:50
Mile 13: 11:19
Now it was time to bear down, push through, and finish as strong as possible. The wheels were starting to come off the wagon, but I kept pushing as hard as I could, trying to spend as little time walking as possible. I didn’t walk at all through the first 10 miles, and on the back half, I tried to limit the walking in a way I’d never tried before in a race. I’d run to the next mile marker, then walk only long enough to scrub 2 seconds off of the average mile pace on my Garmin…..only about 30-60 seconds of walking would do it. The turnaround was at Mile 17, so as I was heading out that way, I saw lots of runners heading back, many still with their pace groups. I even spotted the 4:45 pace leader…..and he was STILL in front of the 4:30 leader! Go figure?
Mile 14: 10:48
Mile 15: 10:43
Mile 16: 10:52
Mile 17: 11:24
Mile 18: 11:50
Mile 19: 10:21
Mile 20: 11:36
Mile 21: 11:10
Mile 22: 11:49
Mile 23: 12:08
Mile 24: 12:14
Mile 25: 11:24
Coming back over the Founders Bridge into downtown Hartford, the noise level started to rise, as did my anticipation of seeing Barb. Ordinarily, she manages to find a spot near the finish line at smaller races, but this wasn’t a local 5K….she found a spot immediately before the final turn to the finish, right around the 26 mile mark. I’d already looked at my Garmin and realized I was going to PR, so I was already starting to get a little emotional…..and then I spotted my biggest fan at the side of the road, waving to me. We locked eyes and she whipped out here iPod Touch to take some pictures. I was so close to the finish that I called out to her to “run with me to the line” and she took off with me, but was quickly left behind as I turned the corner and headed for home. The finishing straight in Hartford takes you downhill to finish by running under the Soldiers and Sailor Memorial Arch (which is featured prominently in the design of the finisher’s medal) in Bushnell Park.
|Quite a sight!|
Mile 26: 11:36
Mile 27: 8:56
|The view from the Arch down to the line.....where my PR was waiting!|
Final time: 4:51:06
After crossing the line, getting my wonderful mylar blanket and the awesome finisher’s medal, I hobbled back into the park to meet up with Barb in the Family Meeting area. She met me a few minutes later and took some great pics. I was pretty happy….and quite proud.
|Yeah buddy, check out my BLING!!!|
|Damn right, I'm proud.....I just PR'd!!!!!|
We left the park and headed back to the hotel, where the car was parked. Two hours later, I was back home.
I’d done it……I’d wanted to get a PR, and I’d beaten my previous PR by 7 minutes. According to my previous posts, this means my grade for the Hartford Marathon would have to be a B+……didn’t quite meet the standards for an A, but it was pretty darn close. I’m absolutely thrilled to have beaten my previous time, particularly when that time was nearly 3 years old……..I’d done it! Do I have a faster time in me? Maybe…..but that’s something I’m going to have to find out down the road. Right now, I’m just so pleased I was able to not only finish my 3rd marathon, but I’d run it well enough and strong enough to get a PR.
And that’s all there is…..I can’t thank you all enough for your encouragement through the training process and all through the race yesterday. Several of you were even following my progress online, providing me with additional motivation. I haven’t yet planned my next adventure, but you’ll definitely read about it here as soon as I start planning.
See you all down the road!