I've had yet another great week of training, and am so thankful to have escaped pain/injury/discomfort aside from my little knee flare up a month or so ago. Coming out of my highest mileage week, I feel a bit sore (especially when going up and down stairs) but pretty strong overall! The Stretch class with Meera at the Shipley Fitness Center has been a welcome addition to my routine and I look forward to another session today.
A high moment of the past week came on Wednesday, when I had to run 10 miles and simply ran home to Harvard Square after work - combining my commute with my training! The sun was out, as were many other runners, and it was a thrill to be home by 7:00 and already have completed a long workout. The other two midweek runs, five miles apiece, were back on the treadmill, trying to push for some speed.
For my longest training run, 20 miles, my sister and I headed up to Kittery, ME for the Eastern States 20-Miler on Sunday. What a day! We left Cambridge around 7:30, arriving an hour later at Hampton Beach to drop our car off and be shuttled up to Kittery with many other excited runners. It was a really fun atmosphere, with about 1,000 runners all crowded into a school gymnasium, limbering up, moving through their pre-race rituals, assessing layers. We all walked to the starting line in downtown Kittery and were off at 11:00 am! The course wound through the town and back roads for a while, then around mile 4-5 we were running on the coast, following Route1/1-A south. The vista was incredible, with bright sun glinting off the waves and salt spray in the air. It was tough for me for the first 7-8 miles, as I kept getting passed by other runners, which was disheartening. I had the mindset that this may have been a race, but it was still just a training run, and I was trying not to get too caught up in going fast or all-out. Also, given the small field of entrants, everyone was all jumbled together at the start and it took many miles before different paces settled out, so of course speedy people were passing me! Nonetheless, I didn't like it.
But around mile 10, everything shifted, and I found a bit more of a groove and began to pass many people who I had been keeping in my sights previously. I really picked up the speed on the downhills, and didn't lose any ground as I dug in on the uphills. One thing that I love about races is the ability to zero in on someone ahead of you and resolve to step it up and pass them, picking off runners left and right as you methodically and strategically move forward. It's so satisfying! From mile 10 to mile 15, I was really in the zone, continually passing people. Around mile 15, the runners around me had thinned a bit, and we were mostly all in a single file line, separated by some distance. Picking off those people ahead of me would require a little more determination, as well as patience.
The final two miles were straight along the seawall at Hampton Beach, directly into a strong headwind. We had been battling the wind for most of the whole race, but those last two miles were brutal - head down, powering through. Thankfully I had sunglasses on, with all the sand whipping around! In one of the windy stretches earlier on the in the race, some guy was running literally over my right shoulder, two feet away from me, benefiting from me blocking the wind - NOT cool. Talk about being too close! But I say thanks to that annoying runner, because be prompted me to pick up the pace and leave him in the dust. I passed about four or five people on that last two-mile stretch, and pushed it into a sprint the last 50 yards or so, for the big finish!
To my great excitement, I saw that I had completed the race in 3:25:35 - a full 25 minutes faster than I had anticipated. Seeing those results fueled this "I can do anything!" attitude, and made me think, if I did this so much faster than I thought I would, the Marathon is completely surmountable! It was just a fantastic day, with a good crowd of people and I loved having the opportunity to really check in on where I am in my training and recognize my potential.