GMAA (Green Mountain Athletic Association) group photo post-race
I have had my eye on the New Bedford Half Marathon in Massachusetts for a few years now. This race is part of the 2014 USA Track and Field New England Grand Prix Series which means it draws some very serious competition and a stacked field. It is also 5 weeks before the Boston Marathon so it is a key training race for many runners including myself. I am so thrilled to have finally experienced this fantastic half marathon and write about it!
After being injured with a medial tibial stress syndrome (commonly referred to as shin splints) for the past two winters I had to cancel my plans for this race along with the Boston Marathon in 2012 and 2013. (Thank goodness I could run my fall marathons!) But not this year! I have promised myself I’m running New Bedford and Boston no matter what happens this year! It’s been an off and on battle for a while now but I’m slowly and surely overcoming this shin condition. I did have a few set backs with my shin this training cycle where I had to stop 3 different times this winter and take several days off each break. Luckily with a great coach, I have been able to jump back into my program each time. I wasn’t overly confident about my fitness levels going into the half marathon on Sunday, but I surprised myself and ran very well. It was such a great feeling when I crossed the finish line and received my finisher’s medal. And it’s quite a novelty to begin my racing season in March!
About to cross the finish line!
The New Bedford Half Marathon might be my new favorite 13.1 distance! I love this race for so many reasons. While I enjoyed running this fast course, it is still challenging with the “hills” and windy sections along the ocean. However, many people have achieved personal records at this race including my husband last Sunday! For me I was off 56 seconds from my PR which was OK. My goal was to hopefully break an hour and 30 minutes which I did by 4 seconds! And I have to say I was thrilled to run that well this March! I have had a tough time training this winter with the cold temps, road conditions and my shin. Being a numbers person who loves analyzing running stats, I posted the official results which can also be found here.
On Saturday afternoon we boarded a very nice privately charted bus with the GMAA for our 5 hour journey to New Bedford, MA. From the moment we walked over to the bus, we were welcomed so warmly and made to feel at home by Russ, Bob and many other GMAA members. Even our bus driver was super cool! I don’t think you could find a nicer bunch of people! Everyone was so friendly. It was so much fun meeting some new runners that weekend as well as hanging out with Sarah, Kristen and Marty who we see all the time at swim clinic and other events.
We all stayed at the Fairfield Inn & Suites Marriot which was a couple blocks from the race start. This was one of our better hotel experiences before a half or full marathon. The hotel was good and the service was friendly. We even got a bit of sleep. There was a nice area for us all to have dinner and then breakfast. And they didn’t mind us using their kitchen/pantry area to heat up our veggie lasagna.
This has been one of the coldest and harshest winters we’ve seen in a long time here in New England and Sunday was no exception. Luckily while Vermont was having a cold day in the single digits, New Bedford was around 30F at the 11am start time. While I thought this might feel balmy compared to what I have been running in, the wind was blowing hard and made the wind chill feel colder. Yet with the bright sunshine and bluebird day, it looked deceiving. The big dilemma at breakfast was what to wear?! I like to race in a singlet and shorts even in 40F temps but the wind along the ocean had me worried. So I opted for covering all body parts! Looking back I could have gotten away with wearing shorts and ditching the arm warmers and gloves.
After a quick warm up run and last visit on the bus, Scott, Marty, Kristen and myself lined up close to the start. The team scoring was based on gun time and not chip time so it was important to get as close to the start as we could. I was surprised at how easily it was to make our way to an ideal spot so close to line. He huddled together to keep warm while “God Bless America” and the National Anthem was sung beautifully. It was a great feeling to be ready to race in the coming minutes! I had finally made it to New Bedford! I was excited!
Around 2,800+ people raced the New Bedford Half Marathon this year!
As the gun went off a large wave of humanity stormed off into the streets for the next 13.1 miles. I had studied a few blogs and race reports about this half marathon so I knew what to expect in the next coming miles. I knew the first couple miles would be very fast. I could have ran faster than I did for those two miles, but found myself purposely slowing down the pace slightly to conserve energy for the notorious “hills” in miles 3 and 4. I was hoping to run with Marty but he took off a bit faster than I had planned. I did see him in the distance on the hills but knew I had to run my own race.
While these “hills” that I speak of are not exactly what we call hills in Vermont, they were substantial enough to slow down my pace to around a 7 minute mile for both the 3rd and 4th mile. I did run them conservatively since I hadn’t gotten to see the course before the race and I was concerned about the windy sections and the final hill. Once I got over the final hill I was looking forward to the next few miles and feeling pretty good. Here are my paces for the first 4 miles:
I knew the next 3-4 miles would be very fast with a gradual downhill on most of that long stretch. I enjoyed these miles very much especially with a generous tailwind which improved my speeds. I noted that I was feeling strong and healthy during this section. However, I have learned not to become too overconfident when racing. I was also feeling very warm with the bright sunshine and wind at my back. I knew I should have worn shorts! But I wasn’t uncomfortable. I just prefer to wear less when racing. The 10K mark passed quickly and I was still cruising along at a good pace. Mile 8 brought us down to the ocean where we would run around a peninsula with pretty ocean views and wind for the next few miles. Here are the paces for miles 5-8:
Me and my baggy pants!
Once I was running along the ocean I saw that I was slowly creeping up on Marty. At this point I made sure I took a few moments to admire the scenic ocean views. With the blue skies, it was quite gorgeous. And at this point, the wind was still at my back and I was still running at a good pace. Once we rounded the peninsula and started running in the opposite direction, the wind was there to greet us as was anticipated. While it was not as bad as many of my training runs this winter, it was still strong enough to slow down the pace. It was around mile 10 where I caught up to Marty and ran behind him for a few minutes. I was deciding if I should keep going or stay with Marty since he knew the course and what was in store for us. I had already been conservative (maybe too much) the first 4 miles so I decided to keep trucking along. I said hi to Marty as I ran by and asked how he was doing. I then proceeded to draft other runners for a little wind protection. This works better when riding a bike but it did help a little bit.
My bad-ass husband is getting fast!
Miles 10 and 11 were a little slower mostly due to the wind. I hoped that I might be able to pick it up a little once we were back in the city area protected by the wind. I did catch up to Sydney around mile 11 and asked how she was doing. She looked good and was running very strong (she also had a PR that day!). I continued on without Sydney but knew she would be close behind. Mile 12 was faster without the wind, but it seemed like it was a slight gradual uphill on the city streets. I was still feeling decent. I was definitely putting in a good hard effort but I wasn’t suffering like I have in the past. Even my heart rate turned out to be a little lower than usual. I was pleasantly surprised at how the miles were ticking off pretty quickly during this race. But I knew that I had one last hurdle in the race which is why I didn’t want to run mile 12 too fast.
As promised, the “big hill” came at the very end of mile 12 and a good half of mile 13. This was not a killer hill but it felt long and hard after running 12 miles. I was told to look out for a notorious fast food chain which would indicate the end of the uphill battle. Never before have I been so happy to see a fast food establishment! I wasn’t dying but I wasn’t running up it as fast as I would have liked. I did pass people which helped my momentum. And then we finally turned right for the fast downhill finish. This was super fun! I was ready for the quad-crushing downhill and ran at a pretty good clip. My last 2/10 of a mile showed a pace of 5:36 which is a rare speed for me! I smiled for the camera and crossed the finish line in a gun time of 1:30:06. (net time of 1:26:56). Here are my paces for the last few miles:
I was on top of the world when I received my finisher’s medal. This is one that I have coveted for a while now. That moment made all those hideous training runs in ice, snow and polar temps feel worth it! I was stoked about my run and the great experience that day! I was going to be ready for Boston! I may have run a bit too conservatively but I was happy with how I felt and the resulting time. And I was thrilled when Scott was only a few minutes behind me. He had a great run that day and exceeded his own expectations. Go Scott! Our friends ran very well too which made me very happy. I love it when we all do so well on race day! Congrats to Sarah, Kristen, Marty, Sue, Sydney and all other GMAA racers that day! You all rocked it!
Scott’s PR beer Thanks Marty!
It was a very successful race day for the GMAA overall. Eight people in the club had personal records. Many people did well in their age groups. I was third in my age group. The team results were high too. I was proud to be a part of the GMAA women masters team which came in third out of 19 teams. Myself, Sue and Sarah made that happen. I’m honored to race with these super ladies!
After a nice short recovery run, shower and some leftovers, we were back on the road to Vermont. The GMAA had coolers full of a variety of good beers and I took advantage of this situation which is no surprise to those who know me. I love to celebrate and party after a race and the ride back was no exception. The 5 beers probably weren’t the best recovery fluids. But they did make the 5 hour bus ride more fun! And while my legs had the usual soreness the next morning, it wasn’t anything worse than I’ve experienced from other races. With a good swim clinic and a sports massage this week, my legs are recovering nicely. I’ve already logged in a few days of running and just finished a good hard tempo run. I can’t wait to run this half marathon again next year! It was a fantastic weekend!
Food and Beverage report:
With a full time job and busy training schedule, I didn’t have time to make a dinner to bring down to New Bedford even though I love to cook. The GMAA had a pasta and meatball dinner catered at the hotel but I didn’t know if the sauce or noodles would be vegan. Thank goodness Sweat Pea Natural Foods in Waitsfield, VT came to my rescue! Carin made this amazing vegan veggie lasagna that fed us before the race and after the race. It was delicious and nourishing! Thanks Carin! This was an awesome carb loading experience. Luckily we were able to heat it up in the hotel’s convection oven.
For sweet treats we loaded up with goodies from Pingala Café, which is one of our new favorite places! It’s a vegan café that recently opened up in Winooski, VT. I can’t say enough good things about this café, the food, coffee and service. Please go check it out! Everything is delicious! So far we’ve been there every weekend! Thanks Trevor! These helped us run faster!
Overall I highly recommend this half marathon for your racing “bucket list”. It’s a classic event and the type of race that people return to every year. It’s a great race on so many levels. It’s is very well organized with a super festive St Patty’s day theme! I loved all the green running clothes and costumes worn by so many runners. I found this photo to the side which made me smile! If you have the opportunity to race with the GMAA and take the bus down next year, please do so! You won’t regret it! We had so much fun! Thank you Russ and Bob for all your efforts and attention to detail. You made us feel so welcome and we appreciate that so much! I hope to do more races with you all soon!
“May you always have walls for the winds,
a roof for the rain, tea beside the fire,
laughter to cheer you, those you love near you,
and all your heart might desire.”