Two days after watching Hilary compete in the Wildman, I decided to register for the White Mountain Milers half marathon. Seeing her and all the other competitors motivated me to get my sh*t together and start training. I did what all first time racers do and that was print out Hal Higdon's training plan. This simple plan allowed me to form a little structure around my running, meaning I now had goals and purpose - a pivotal moment in my life for sure.
Looking over the training plan I also signed up for a few other events that day. I needed a 5k race and a 10k race. For the 5k I found the black bear 5k but I couldn't find a 10k. So I did the next logical thing, sign up for an olympic distance triathlon (Pitch Pine Tri) that had a 10k in it.
Training went well, for the FIRST week. I went from 13.5 to 37.4 weekly miles. On week 2 of training I mixed it up and had a good hike, swimming, and biking plus a couple runs. Then, on August 22nd, I incurred my first injury. I threw a frisbee for Squall and it went into the neighbor's yard. I got up on a chain-link fence, barefoot, and as I jumped over, caught my foot on one of the prongs, catching my full weight as I fell to the other side. I quickly looked down at my foot and knew it was bad, a 2.5" jagged cut down the outside of my left foot. And fairly deep. I first thought of the 5k race I had in two days. I thought maybe if I glued it up I'd be fine. It's amazing the stupid sh*t you'll do to still try and compete. It was clear that I needed stitches so my mom drove her 33yr old son to urgent care and I got stitched up. That injury only sideline me for a few days until I was able to get a bike shoe on. I spent the next 10 days biking and eventually swimming until I could run, two weeks after the initial injury. Not a bad deal considering what it looked like.
My training was now triathlon training with a half marathon plan mixed in. My mileage was less than 30 miles per week until October but I mixed in a lot of hiking and put in focused workouts each week (track / tempo / long). On October 5th, Hilary and I raced in the Pinnacle Half Marathon in Newport, NH just as a rehearsal race to get a rough benchmark of our half fitness. The following two weekends I ran a 15 mile 3/1 and a 14 mile course recon. Both runs went very well and was set up to hit my goal for race day.
On the morning of the race it was chilly and partly cloudy. We arrived at Schouler Park and handled our registration, used the bathrooms, and warmed up. Twenty minutes before the race I took a gel and also pinned one on the inside of my shorts. My plan was to go out a little faster than my race pace since the first three miles are slightly downhill. I got up near the front of the starting line and after a race briefing Vince started us off. The course starts with a loop around the park before heading south down Rt 16. The start was fast, sub 6 minute pace and I quickly backed off. I was targeting a finish time of 1:25 which meant a 6:29 min/mi pace. I had no real benchmark in the half since the Pinnacle was 20 days ago and on a rail trail. The pavement was much faster but the course profiles were about even.
I settled into a small pack with Darren Brown and several others. When we hit the small hill at mile 3, we started to spread out a little and miles were clicking off at a good pace. At mile 5.5 the course goes over the covered bridge in Conway. I had my family there cheering me on and my dad threw me a water bottle which was kind of him. We turned up on West Side Road and that's when things started getting tough. The guys I was following started to slow down to a 6:45+ pace and I forced myself to stick to my goal pace which wasn't easy. The whole return on West Side Road was a battle to keep pace. I passed a couple more people before locking in on 5th place around mile 9.4 or so. As I approached the corn fields, I could see Leslie O'Dell turning right back towards town. She had a minute plus gap on me and there was no chance to catch her. I ran up the last little hill before turning right on 16 and hung on for the home stretch. 1:23:55. The course seemed a bit long judging from everyone's GPS but I'll take it.
We had a catered lunch by Elvio's and Subway which was perfect, followed by awards. I was happy to win my age group and share the podium with myself. We ended up going to the Cider House for a second lunch and wrapping things up back at the Cabin with some drinks. Now time to find another race!