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September 2021
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Half at the Hamptons 2011

This year’s event was intentionally different than last year. First off, I ran half as many miles in the two months leading up to the event, in large part due to snow that encouraged snowshoeing and prevented safe running, as well as work demands on my schedule; I was definitely not out for a PR this time. Second, I convinced a friend (co-worker who is also from Indiana) to sign up with me, and then realized this would be his first half marathon! So I had a vested interest in ensuring he had a successful race. Third, I wanted to try another event that was focused on having fun and enjoying the experience, and in this case it meant being an encouragement to other runners and running with someone else at their pace.

I had high hopes for the weather, since we had 46 degree sunny days earlier in the week. Instead, the howling wind did not subside overnight, so I awoke to 17 degrees with 35mph wind gusts. I was awake before my alarm, re-calculating how long packing and transit might take, to determine when I absolutely needed to get up. I assembled my gear and puttered around the house, admittedly uncomfortable with preparing by myself (being Coach Su instead of relying on Coach Beej) and having butterflies for no logical reason (I increased the number of bathroom stops compared to last year). Of course I made it to the registration early, met up with my friend and his support crew, and was able to discuss what to wear and make a fueling plan. I even made a trip back to my car for a final chap prevention and shedding of extra clothes with plenty of time to spare.

And then, it was time to go! My friend had run 13 miles the previous week at a 10 min per mile pace, so we started out conservatively behind the 9:30 pace group. I always miss the mile 1 split, but we came through mile 2 at around 20 mins, so considering we started about 45 seconds back from the start, was a good warmup. I encouraged him to eat a Clif shot at mile 4, but he decided that mile 5 would be better, and it did work out well; I ate a bit of Clif bar since I was feeling hungry by then. We stuck to our 9:30 to 9:45 pace until mile 7, when I learned that he likes to run hard up the hills – as I do! After that spunky sub-9 minute mile, we caught up with the 9:30 pacer and decided to hang with that group until mile 10. We walked every water stop and picked up gel again at the 8.5 mile point, which made a big difference over his training run last week in keeping up his energy level. And, the wind wasn’t too bad, so we were comfortably warm.

It was a great feeling to turn onto Rte 1A at mile 9 and know we were on the home stretch. My friend was tired but running strong, so I was happy to chatter about the beautiful mansions, the blue ocean, and the way the finish line was pulling us in as we cruised downhill with the wind at our backs. It was fun to be the coach at this point and feel like I had a good reserve. We took it easy for mile 12 but pushed a bit for mile 13, coming in at our fastest mile, an 8:12 into the finish at 2:05:06, a 9:33 mile pace.

Success! And a high five for my friend managing a 2:05 for his first half marathon. His wife and her friend were there to meet us at the finish, where we replayed the race highlights and did a little eating and stretching.

So what did I learn? First, that it really is great to share the joy of running with someone else. I’ve had so many friends do training runs with me, so many races where Beej paced me, many times when I felt like skipping a workout but having someone else to run with made it not only a priority but the highlight of my day. If I could give that to someone else, wow, totally worth it. Second, it doesn’t matter whether I am “racing” or “pacing” – my digestive system tells me I am nervous and excited just the same. Third: I can actually rise to the occasion and hold a pace. I know a couple of you will be shocked, and others will wonder why that’s even an issue. (You know who you are!) I now feel comfortable and would really enjoy pacing someone again in a long race. Lastly, walking those water stops was probably worth it in the end.

So what’s next? I am really itching to get back to speed work. Can I go out and do a speed workout by myself? That would be unprecedented! But all signs point to it being a necessity if I am going to do that structured training plan I talked about in January. I definitely am physically ready to get back to training if I can motivate myself to make the time. I am also thinking a lot about the McNaughton Ultra in May, another race where I could keep a steady pace but still push myself, and this time treat it more competitively.

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