Race Review: Eversource Hartford Marathon

State #29, Marathon #37

imageWell, it certainly was not a “close to 3 hour day”, but it was a great race! I made sure that a PR wasn’t possible in the first mile for this one. I went out too fast! Are you surprised? I’m not – I do that when I get excited. But, I am still thrilled with the result for many reasons. The main reason? While I didn’t meet the rough time goals I had for myself, I did meet one goal: I felt good running almost the whole time! Finally!

The Expo

I drove up to this race solo, and went right to the expo. It was a decent sized expo, but I didn’t stay very long. When I got my bib, I asked if I could switch to the seeded corral. If you posted a marathon time if 3:30 or less, you were eligible – but you had to register for it by 9/1. I signed up for the race after that (procrastination at it’s finest!), and was supposed to be in the regular corral. I heard the start could get a bit congested so I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask. Success!!

imageI wanted to get off my feet and get a good night’s sleep. I ordered sushi from Feng Asian Bistro (thanks Colby for the awesome recommendation!), and it was walking distance from the expo. It was pouring, but I knew the rain would stop for the race. There were some great decals all over the street:

imageI headed to my hotel, which was away from the city and closer to the airport. It wasn’t too late by the time I got in, ate dinner and got organized. I took an Epsom Salt bath, watched TV and passed out early. I had a little trouble sleeping, but mostly because I was afraid I wouldn’t wake up. This was the first time I’ve traveled to a marathon by myself. My other 50 stater friends had already done Connecticut, and it was close enough that I didn’t think I needed to drag my poor husband along!

Race Morning

I was up early because I knew I wanted to get into Hartford early to get a parking spot. Plus, one of the garages was offering free parking and a free pair of gloves if you got there around 6am. I was traveling alone, so I didn’t mind napping in my car before the race. I woke up at 4am, made some coffee (yep, I bring my coffee pot to marathons – such a coffee snob!), and got ready. I was out the door by 5:45 am and at the designated parking garage by 6am – I got my free gloves! I rested in the car and ate my breakfast until close to 7am, when I started to walk to the starting line. The sun was coming up, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. It was hovering just under the 50 degree mark at this point. Still a bit warm for the start of a marathon but I was happy with the forecast.

imageThe Start

I got to Bushnell Park and found gear check relatively easily. The porta potty situation was really odd – there were random porta potties everywhere, but no main area with a large bay of bathrooms like most races have. The lines were long, and I didn’t know if I should pick one and wait or walk around and find other ones. Once I was all ready to go, I headed to the starting line. I was in the small section of seeded runners, and I was starting to get nervous. Finally, after the the Star Spangled Banner and a short prayer, the gun went off.

Miles 1-5

As soon as the gun went off, I saw something unexpected. A 3 hour pacer. I didn’t think there would be any pacers faster than 3:15. I started to chase him and stopped myself. First of all, why would I think it’s a good idea to run a 3 hour marathon when my final spring marathon was a 3:17? I hadn’t even broken 3:10 this year. I took a breath and slowed down, even though it was still too fast. I was averaging under 7 minute miles. I also knew after mile 1.25, the half marathoners would branch off and I’d be able to relax. Even though the first mile was way too fast, I felt really good. I told myself after the first mile, I was slowing down to a 7:10ish pace to give my body a minute to warm up and to get back to my pacing strategy.

And then right before the second mile of the race, the mental battle began. As I was nearing mile 1.5 and finding my stride, the 3:10 pacer and his crew came screaming by me like I was standing still. What? I was fast for the first mile, and I’m just over a 7 minute pace right now. Why is he passing me? In my moment of panic, what did I do? I chased him. He stayed ahead of me, but only because I wasn’t willing to speed up anymore. I was now back to averaging sub-7s and he was still ahead of me! A 3:10 is something like a 7:14 pace. Why is he running 20 seconds faster? Why can’t I keep up? I was frantic. I wish I could just not see the pacers – I know better than to run with them (had a terrible experience at Grandma’s with the 3:05 pacer and his dumb red and white balloons – they still haunt me) and I vowed never to use one again. Here I was, trying not to use a pacer but losing my mind because he was so far ahead of me. Miles 1-5: 6:50, 6:57, 6:57, 6:56, 6:52.

Miles 6-10

I finally passed the 3:10 guy, but a had a teeny side sticker. I know that a side sticker early in the race is not a good sign and that I was going too fast. I began to relax and finally slow down. Maybe he started fast to bank some time, and now he’s going to relax too. Oh, wait, nope here they go at mile 10 – passing me once again. What the hell? Why is he passing me? I’m running about a 3:04 pace here. Why is he even near me? Is my Garmin broken? That’s what it is. I’ve been training on a busted Garmin all summer long. On another note, miles 1-10 were some of my favorites of the race because they went through the city and some beautiful parks. this is where I enjoyed the course the most, but it was also where I was a bit of a head case. Miles 6-10: 6:56, 6:55, 7:03, 7:08, 6:57.

Miles 11-15

I’m still chasing Mr. 3:10 pacer. We start to leave the city and venture out into some residential areas, which is pretty. Mr. 3:10 is well ahead of me as I cross the half marathon point in 1:32. ONE FREAKING THIRTY TWO – and he was so far ahead that he was practically OUT OF SIGHT. Now I was sure my Garmin wasn’t busted. His dumb ass had indeed gone out too fast, and my dumb ass decided to try to chase him. If I would have spent a little time preparing a pacing strategy, I would have figured this out well before the half marathon point. During these miles, the course goes through a residential neighborhood that was the “out and back” segment of the course. This was my least favorite section. As I hit mile 15, I began to feel a strange pain in the top of my foot. I think it was a cramp, but it lasted for awhile and I had no choice but to slow down a little. It was a sharp pain, and in my marathon brain I was running on a broken foot. I’ve had two friends run races with broken metatarsals so that’s one pain I tend to freak out about. I almost started to cry – why was this happening to me? It’s not like I’d been training for weeks with some sort of weird undiagnosed foot pain. It was really strange. Miles 11-15: 6:54, 6:55, 7:09, 7:13, 7:25.

Miles 16-20

What I can only assume was a foot cramp lasted through about mile 19ish. We hit the turnaround point and started cruising back. Somewhere as we exited the residential neighborhood was the last time my foot bothered me – the last time I remember feeling it was around mile 19. Through that point, every time I felt it, my thoughts were, “Do I stop? Keep going? Cassie didn’t stop when this happened to her and she flat out broke her foot. If I break my foot, my poor husband is going to have to find someone to drive him up here and get my car because I won’t be able to drive. Ugh, the drive up here is horrendous. I can’t let that happen. But if I stop, I’m going to have to come back and run another marathon in Connecticut.” Then it would subside, and I’d think, “okay, relax, you’re okay.” When I started to feel more comfortable, I’d try to pick up the pace again, and I’d feel it. Then the whole internal dialogue would begin again. We were on the “back” segment of the out and back at this point, which was a relief. I didn’t like that portion of the course. Miles 16-20: 7:30, 7:44, 7:45, 7:50.

Miles 21-25

For being the last 10K of the marathon, I didn’t feel TERRIBLE. Actually, I felt pretty good. My legs were tired and I clearly went out too fast, but I felt strong. I felt like I could run – I had no desire to walk. I must have looked like I was feeling good because two guys commented on it as I passed them. One just said, “Looking strong!” and another I chatted with for a few minutes and he was trailing behind me. He said, “You’re having a great race, you look great!” And you know what? I was having a great race. Yes, I let the dumb 3:10 pacer get in my head and then the weird foot thing was going on – but I felt good. I was running my best marathon of 2015. It was a freaking gorgeous day – 50s, clear blue sky and sunny. I was almost done and I felt good, which meant even though I went out faster than I should have, I was going to finish strong. We were heading back into the city, and the course was more interesting again. Around mile 25, a woman came up next to me and started to pass me. Besides the leaders that I saw on the turnaround, I hadn’t seen many females. I was not about to let her pass me now, so I picked it up. Miles 20-25: 7:45, 7:49, 7:47, 7:23.

Miles 26 – 26.2

I think the mile spent getting ahead of that woman caught up with me, so I slowed down on this last mile. This mile had a bit of an incline, but nothing crazy. As we neared the 26 mile marker, I saw that woman again out of the corner of my eye. Oh hell no. She was on my heels, but she didn’t catch me. I crossed the finish line in 3:12:40. Miles 26-26.2: 7:59, 6:14 pace for the .2 (ha!).

The Finish

The finish line is the most beautiful finish line I’ve ever run through:

imageI headed through the easy to navigate finish and into the super confusing party in Bushnell Park. Somehow, I found the massage tents and got a free massage. This is where I started to talk to a few other marathon finishers. I mentioned the 3:10 pacer ordeal, and one of the guys said his friend went sub 3 and saw the 3 hour pacer finis at 2:55, and they saw the 3:10 guy cross somewhere before 3:05! NOT cool. I had promised myself not to run with the pacers, but I need to figure out a way to completely ignore the pacers. Mentally, I can’t deal with it.

Getting my gear bag back was the easiest part – it was a far walk and up a hill, but there were GOLF CARTS waiting to take you there! That was so cool. I changed into my clean clothes, grabbed my bib (for the food and beer tickets) and headed back to the park for food. Once I ate, I wanted to go drink a beer with my beer ticket but I didn’t have my ID. I wasn’t about to walk to my car and walk back for a beer, so I decided to head out. As I was trying to find my way back to my car, I found myself walking with a group of runners. I overheard a guy talking about how he ran a 3:58, and was planning start with the 4 hour pacer but he went out way too fast so he ignored him. I was about to chime in when the guy he was walking with said he went out with the 3:20 pacer and was running sub 7 minute miles and stupidly tried to hang on! I finally chimed in and told them my story, and I cracked up when the 3:20 goal guy said, “I swear I thought my Garmin was broken”. My thoughts EXACTLY!

Overall, I was pretty happy with how I placed:

imageI’ll take it. So many good things came out of this race, even though I wasn’t capable of the time I wanted to run on that day. I ran a stupid race – but I also ran a very similar race to how I ran in Clarence Demar (3:18), Lost Duchman (3:43), and Grandmas (3:17). Those days, I went out and ran sub 7s for as long as I could. I never held on to them for as long as I did at Hartford. In Hartford, once I had to slow down I still stayed consistently sub 8. In Clarence and Grandmas, I had many 8+ minute miles. At the Lost Dutchman, both of my Achilles locked up and I had to walk six miles to the finish. I went out too fast on Saturday. But I still ran my fastest marathon of 2015! Most importantly, I felt strong again. I’m going to recover from this one, and I can’t wait to run Indianapolis in a few weeks. I didn’t know what I was capable of in Hartford and in terms of pacing, I sort of winged it and got caught up in a race with a terrible pacer. I have a solid pacing strategy for the next one based on what I ran in Hartford. State #29 is in the books!!

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