In my previous posts I’ve talked about how I got into running, my first months of running, and the first few races from last summer. This post is about my first foray into “big” (ie, well organized) road races in the fall of 2017.
Ready and willing to take my next step toward someday running a marathon, I eyed the Half Marathon options near me first. One afternoon while on Facebook, I saw a post in a running group that mentioned the highly acclaimed Mount Desert Island Half Marathon was re-opening registration for 100 entries only. I pondered the opportunity, but only for a minute, before calling my wife Sarah to “run it by her” and get her input. She was at work and very busy, and could tell I wasn’t going to easily take no for an answer, but I’ll never forget her response.
She said, “I’m not going to say no, but YOU’RE CRAZY!”
The online registration for the MDI Half included an option for another “free” race they were promoting in Millinocket. Billed by race organizers Crow Athletics as the “Sea to Summit series”, for an extra $10 I would get a nice medal (in addition to the MDI medal) if I also completed the Millinocket Half (or full) Marathon in December. Why sign up for just one half marathon when you can get TWO for the price of one?!
So there I was sometime mid to late summer 2017, and I was signed up for a half marathon in October, and another in December. WAHOO!
Now, time to up my game…
Up to this point, I believe my longest long run that summer was 6 miles, so Sarah had a point – I was crazy! But needless to say I dove head-first into more serious running, researching half marathon training extensively.
It was during this training period that I became very familiar with all the terms that make up a typical training plan such as: “easy run”, “long run”, “tempo run”, “repeats”, etc, and all the various paces that go along with those runs and workouts. Oh boy, what a whole new world was opened to me!
I surely but steadily built up the distance of my weekly long run to where I did cover a full 13 miles a couple of times before running MDI. Ultimately, I set my goal for the MDI Half at 1:50:00 (8:22/mi pace) after having run the course as a training run in 1:56:00 (8:49 pace).
The Sea: MDI Half Marathon
Leaving from the Bangor area in the early morning hours on race day (after meeting my brother-in-law Jon at the Brewer Walmart– who raced the half as well), I was nervously excited to get my first half marathon started. Everything went according to plan with parking in Bar Harbor at the marathon start, taking the shuttle to the half marathon starting line, pre-race snacking, and bathroom breaks — so I felt prepared and ready to go.
As I write this post some 3.5 months after the race, it’s hard to remember many specifics, but ultimately the race was a success for being my first half marathon– coming in just 2 seconds under my stated goal at 1:49:58 (about 8:22/mi pace).
But since I have the Strava activity to refer back to, I can see I was a little too aggressive in the first 8 miles for my fitness level at the time with splits ranging anywhere from 8:05 to 8:15 pace. I ran out of steam on the hills near Echo Lake from miles 9 to 11 with splits of 8:41, 8:35, and 9:39 respectively (where I walked a few short times to bring my heart-rate down). I battled a side-stitch on the mile 12 downhill, but got through it and stayed strong in the 13th mile coming into Southwest Harbor to keep my time under 1:50:00.
All in all, I was satisfied with the result, and I had learned a lot from the race experience. Furthermore, my and Jon’s families had made the trip down, and they cheered us at various spots on the course. It’s always nice to hear your kids cheer you on when you need that extra push.
However, our wives were so busy keeping the little ones from running out into the road, no pictures were taken. So other than the above starting line photo with Jon, the official race photos are all I have for photos from the race.
The Summit: Millinocket Half (and a Turkey Trot)
With October behind me, I began training in earnest again for the next half marathon — the Millinocket Half Marathon — which was also the culmination of the aforementioned Sea to Summit Series.
As with MDI, training consisted of running 4-5 days per week at most, with a mix of easy runs, tempo runs, and long runs. I still hadn’t rotated in much speedwork, except a couple of times in the training cycle. At most, I averaged mileage of 30-35 miles per week.
As a quick aside, November brought a return to my alma mater with the Brewer High School Turkey Trot 3 miler. In fact, my last road race some 20 years prior was this Turkey Trot, and it was the one race I vowed to do when I had started running again back in March. So even though it was pouring rain, there’s no way I was missing it. I caught up with old friends and even some former classmates, and ran the 3 mile race in 7:05/mi pace.
Here’s a finish line shot from the Turkey Trot:
This race served as a good confidence boost heading into December and the Millinocket Half.
So on to Millinocket. I felt good heading into that race, but you never know what to expect. I had continued to steadily increase my weekly long run, and maintained a comfortable weekly mileage. My informal goal was to average at or just above 8:00/mile pace for the race.
The crowd was crazy at the start, and my friend Ben and I had positioned ourselves pretty far back in the crowd (pic below)…
Being so far back meant I had to make my way through a lot of slower runners in the early miles, but this was a blessing in disguise as it helped me run more conservatively. I consciously told myself not to spend too much energy trying to run around people, and that strategy helped these miles to be under control as I picked people off slowly but surely. The first 10K of Millinocket is mostly uphill on the famed Golden Road, so starting the race in a controlled way is a must.
At the 10K mark you take a right turn off the Golden Road and start the net downhill back toward town. Aside from a couple rolling hills you have to push through in the late miles, the second half of the Millinocket Half is fast. If you’ve trained on hills, are race fit, healthy — and you keep your sugar supply up with a GU or the like in that second 10K — you’ll be ready to nail this race. As a side note, if you’re running the full marathon, you’ll want to still run conservatively in these miles because you’ll need to save some energy for the second lap back up the Golden Road.
Anyway, I ended the race strong and ran my second half marathon in an official time of 1:43:33 — a 6:35 minute improvement from my first half marathon at MDI less than 2 months prior (that’s 30 seconds per mile faster at 7:52/mile)!
With this boost of confidence I left Millinocket with the itch to sign up — and start training for — my first full marathon. After a couple weeks of rest, of course. But more on that in future posts!
Finally, here are some more pics from the day in Millinocket…
The “official” Instagram collage with Ben (top left), Jon and Cam (top right), the start line (bottom) — and Strava stats of course:
My traveling partners were Jonathan and Cam, who ran the half and full, respectively. The first pic that follows is at the starting line, and the bottom one is after the races on the Golden Road (with Mt. Katahdin in the background):
That’s all for now. In my next posts, I let you know my marathon plans and how training is going..