Two races in two weeks! Dare I say this just might be becoming a running blog once again?
As you may recall (because I refuse to stop reminding people), my first-ever marathon was the Hamptons Marathon. I had the best experience that day in 2011 and have felt a fondness for the Hamptons since then. The following year, I ran the Hamptons Half Marathon just a few weeks after getting out of the hospital for a Crohn’s flare-up.
Last year I didn’t get to make my way back out to run and support those races because I was still too sick and preoccupied with trying to untangle my very swollen and exhausted intestines. But in the late fall, the Hamptons Marathon and Half Marathon organizers announced that they’d be holding a spring race in 2014: the Bridgehampton Half Marathon.
I knew I wanted to run it.
Obviously back then it was way too early to try and plan for such a thing. As I’ve repeated, having a chronic illness has taught me that planning is difficult to do, and setting expectations is often a dangerous and self-destructive way for me to live. Frustrating, but true.
So I kept the Bridgehampton Half Marathon website bookmarked on my computer and I’d check in occasionally to see if there were updates, course maps, elevation charts, etc.
I only mentioned the race to my brother. I emailed him saying I really wanted to get better so I could run this race, and asked if there was any chance he and Michaela would be having Tyler’s second birthday party that weekend (which would, very obviously, be a priority for me).
They said his party would be the weekend before, so the race wasn’t out for me. I just had to get better.
And then, at some point, I started to get better, and I started running again.
My first run was 21 minutes and I had to stop to urgently use a public restroom three separate times. But my next run lasted 51 minutes and I built up from there.
Most of my runs were filled with stops, walk breaks and “stretching breaks,” but by May 4, I felt confident I could run the Bridgehampton Half Marathon.
And I did. In 1 hour, 51 minutes and 25 seconds.
My “Best Day Ever” list is growing, and May 10 is definitely on there.
A recap from the beginning, if you’re into such things…
Brian and I drove out to Southampton after work Friday night. Smooth sailing, no traffic, some pasta at some restaurant along the way, and I was facedown on a very cozy bed by 10:30 PM. (A tip, by the way: Want to experience the loveliness of the Hamptons without the crowds, prices or traffic? Go in the off-season. Cheaper! Easier! Empty! Granted, I’ve never been out there during the “in” season, so what do I know? Nevermind.)
I went through phases where I was nervous for the race, but mostly I was just happy — happy to be racing again, happy to be able to run, happy to be back out in the place where I have such fond memories.
My biggest concern was the bathroom situation. I knew there would be Porta Potties stationed at every other mile marker. That didn’t seem like enough for me. I like them to be at every mile.
But that brings me back to the wonder of springtime in the Hamptons: Nearly every house is either under construction or renovation, or is in the middle of a major landscaping project.
Therefore: Porta Potties on almost every single lawn of every single house.
How’s that for a race day miracle? I was pumped.
The race started at 9 AM, so I was up at 6. I ate a plain bagel with nothing on it (yum!), took a warm shower (race day tradition), and spent as much time in the bathroom as I felt I needed. I was relaxed and had plenty of time.
It felt chilly outside so I debated going with long sleeves, but I’m glad I didn’t — the humidity was hovering somewhere around 365% and I was dripping by mile .05. Good call on the tank for sure.
Brian drove me to the start, and with the beauty of these small town races, you can pretty much drive right up to the start line. He parked the rental, I used the Porta Potties a few times, got myself a kiss, and then it was time to line up.
My stomach felt OK, but I didn’t want to put any pressure on this race. I assumed I would have to make bathroom stops and I was totally OK with it. (I just hoped they would be at the actual Porta Potties and not, I don’t know, in a ditch on the side of the road somewhere. Hot stuff!)
My plan was to just run and have fun. Numbers and stops didn’t matter, and that was just groovy. Laid-back racing (spooooiler: this mentality worked).
I had dug out my Garmin (found it in my underwear drawer; that’s a mystery I’ll never solve, I suppose) so that I could plan to [attempt to] pace myself. As I’ve mentioned, I haven’t been timing my runs, but I was worried about going out “too fast” or “too slow,” without any regard to what the heck those paces might even be or feel like. I thought maybe I’d be able to hang on around an 8:45/mile pace. Optimism!
But heeeeey, what do ya know, I couldn’t get a signal. Maybe the Garmin forgot how to work since it hasn’t been turned on since November. So I ran watchless and without a clue what I was doing. I lined up in the 9-minute-mile area, though, so I figured I’d just try to hang with them.
The race started near a windmill (which I actually didn’t notice until I got to the post-race finish line area, but it seemed like a nice touch) in downtown Bridgehampton, and the course was branded as “flat and fast.” I typically prefer rolling courses because I do better when I can mix up the leg muscles I’m using. Plus I like little downhills. But this course was exactly as they said it would be: pancake-flat.
I love pancakes and I haven’t had them in, like, years. (Who wants to bring pancakes to the Lurlene McDaniel party? Chocolate chip ones for me, please.)
Right away, I knew this race would be what I had assumed the Hamptons Marathon would be. The marathon and its accompanying half are run mostly on side roads. The courses aren’t necessarily pretty or Hamptons-y. But this one was!
We ran past the most ridiculous mansions, the most pristine landscaping and some various bodies of water. It was beautiful and I entertained myself by constantly looking at all the pretty houses and picking which ones I would want to live in (all of them).
I know I ran the first mile perhaps too quickly. I crossed the start line shortly after the start (wasn’t paying attention to the time…oops) and passed the first mile marker at, if I recall correctly, 8:35 or 8:25. After that, I stopped paying attention to the numbers on the mile marker clocks because math is too hard. Wah. And I didn’t want to worry about or care about numbers. I just wanted to ruuuuuun!
And run I did, straight on to the finish.
Without making any bathroom stops.
This is my longest stop-free run in as long as I can remember. Every time I ran past a bathroom and didn’t have to use it, I was thrilled.
I was pretty out of it for most of the race, just running happy and probably smiling a bit. I remember the course being pretty and I remember feeling like I was putting in enough of an effort that it wasn’t “just another run,” but also feeling very relaxed and wondering if I should try to push harder.
Every mile seemed to fly by. There were two out-and-backs on the course, which I enjoyed. Each was only about a half-mile out, so they were over quickly, and you got to see some familiar faces.
Of note: This race was not closed to traffic. It didn’t bother me (the Hamptons Marathon wasn’t closed to cars, either) and I never thought it was a problem. I know some people don’t like this, though, and find it to be a complain-worthy factor. There were very very few cars on the roads — I didn’t even really notice them, actually — and there were tons of cops along the route to help direct any cars that did come by. But if you’re considering this race for next year and you don’t like running with potential cars on the road, that may be something to consider.
By the second half, I felt like I was passing more people than were passing me, and that’s a very unfamiliar and strange feeling for me. I didn’t hate it.
The only mile that felt long was mile 11. I was starting to feel tired at that point, but tried to pump my arms a little more and ignore the piles of sweat pouring down my face and into my ears.
I wasn’t sure exactly where or when the finish line would appear, but finally I hit the mile 13 marker and saw a left-hand turn up ahead.
I cruised around the turn and saw Brian to my left. That was all the little motivation I needed to push it to the finish.
And that was it.
13.1 miles in 1:51:25 with zero bathroom stops.
I was exhausted when I finished but I was giddy and happy and my legs were a little tight. All those familiar race day feelings came rushing back so fast. I never want to lose them again, but going a long time without racing sure does make you appreciate the days you can get back out there!
I rode my post-race high all weekend long. Naturally.
Brian and I spent the rest of the day driving around the Hamptons doing our post-Hamptons-race traditions: cookies from Levain Bakery (but boooooo, it was closed!) and picking up my favorite bottles of wine from my very favorite vineyard.
On Sunday, we went for a very slow bike ride (sorry, Brian)…
…took Brian’s cute mom to lunch for Mother’s Day and enjoyed the sunshine.
I can’t think of anything to complain about right now. I haven’t felt this good — this generally well — in years.
And I kind of can’t believe I actually ran a half this weekend. Life sure has changed a bit recently…
Exclamation points: !!!