2011 Heartbreak Hill Half Marathon Recap

2011 Heartbreak Hill Half – SUCCESS. This is a major difference from last year’s experience. During the 2010 race I was unprepared and defeated by the first few miles.

Just 3 miles in to the 2010 race and already hating my life

This year, however, I made sure to prepare for the hills, and RUN for the sake of running. Based off of this photo, I think I accomplished those goals. I couldn’t wipe this off of my face for the full 13.1 miles.

After a restless nights sleep, the morning started early & WET, with the rain pouring down, I tweeted & Katy responded:

The rain didn’t stop us, so around 6:45am we met at Newton South High School, just in time for the pouring rain to stop. Thank you mother nature, I take back all of those mean things I said about you (until tomorrow’s storm.) I made the decision to run with my new Nathan hand held water bottle, figuring that if it bothered me, I could hand it off to Foxy at mile 3. After a few pre-race words & the national anthem, we were off.

The first three miles were gentle rolling hills, my legs felt stiff and I was worried that I would never get into my groove. I just kept on telling myself to just be patient and eventually I would get into my groove. Due to the rain and last minute details I was unable to warm up, so I just told myself to calm down and be patient. Despite feeling stiff, my splits were right where I wanted them to be:

Miles 1-3: 8:44, 8:39 and 8:40. How is that for consistency?!

Around mile three I saw Foxy & his cowbell, and I was all smiles.

Finally around 4.25 I took a Gu and my legs started feeling less stiff and I felt myself getting into a groove. Ironically enough, this is was the slowest pace yet of my race. Right around this time we hit our first major hill, so I really shouldn’t be too hard on myself! I just kept on telling myself “You’re so much more prepared than you were last year, you can do this!” I continued on and continued to hit my groove. I think it was a combination of 1) hill preparation and 2) knowledge that I had completed the course previously and (just barely) survived.

Mile 4: 9:09

Mile 5: 8:50

Somewhere during mile 6 we hit Heartbreak, with a Gatorade station conveniently located at the bottom – thank you volunteers! I started the decent and felt strong and confident, “you can do this, you can do this” I passed a father-daughter running duo who blew by me in the first mile, they were visibly struggling, I thought to myself “not this year!” I powerfully bounded up heartbreak. Somewhere near the top I spotted Luau bombing down heartbreak, I screamed out to him “LUAU!!!! SWIMMYKIMY!!” He yelled back to me excitedly. That little exchange was just what I needed going into the toughest part of the course.  I channeled positive thoughts and mantras (I may have said “Faith, not Fear” 100 times.)

This is where the race gets really interesting. After heartbreak there is a brief, but welcome down hill, most people that haven’t looked at the course map sigh in relief only to get the butt handed to them two minutes later. I sped up enjoying this brief reprieve and braced for the toughest, and steepest hill yet. We took a left and faced the 300 foot climb up Waban Hill Rd. With each step I took I kept feeling stronger and stronger. I noticed that no one was around me, at one point I glanced back and saw a pack of people behind me, it was as if I was pulling a whole team of people along! The hill is steep, and has three noticeable ascents. The third and final climb is absolutely demoralizing. Last year during this stage of the race I cried. This year, I dug deep and took no prisoners.

Once I reached the top, down we went, and fast. People started whizzing all around me, and as much as I wanted to tear my quads and hips to shreds, I decided I would hold back and just coast down the hills with control.

Miles 6-8: 8:57, 9:00, 8:36

Somewhere at the end of mile 8 and the beginning of mile 9 I started to hit a MAJOR wall. The major downhills were over, and now the course was back to rolling hills, ugh. Luckily I was running near a group of spry high school kids, so I stayed close to them and just tried to hold on. Somewhere in here, I had another Gu. I was worried about the Gu sloshing in my stomach, but I was starting to get so tired that I knew I needed the calories to get me through to the end. Somewhere around mile 10 I saw Foxy, he asked how I was doing and if I needed water and I said “Nope, I’m great!” I rung his cowbell and told me I looked great. What a guy! Two seconds later a couple that Foxy & I are friends with randomly drove by and cheered me on! The little burst of cheers definitely gave me a boost to trudge on. I knew the end was in sight, but holy crap those last few miles seemed to last forever.

Miles 9-11: 9:27, 8:44, 8:56

When my watch hit 11 miles, I noticed that I would easily be under 2 hours and I sighed in relief. I wasn’t quite out of the woods yet, and I still could have a melt down, but I decided to try to give it everything I had and finish strong. As I ran I tried to focus on my stride and stay loose, and try to ignore the negative thoughts creeping into my head. Over the past two miles the spry high school kids pulled away slightly, I told myself it was OK, they were about 10 years younger than me, I probably would have burned a 27 year old too. However, I began to pass more and more people, which gave me a significant mental lift. I kept on repeating: “Don’t die, don’t die, DON’T DIE!” I made the turn toward the finish and was relieved to see Foxy and know that I was finishing strong and with a smile on my face.

Miles 12, 13, .02 9:07, 8:33, :17

Final time 13.1 Miles, 1:55:39, a 10 minute improvement on last year’s disaster and one of the stronger 1/2 marathon times I’ve had in awhile.

All in all, the race was a success! Foxy was such a trooper waking up so early and being my #1 cheerleader. I am so thankful that he sacrifices sleep and social gatherings in order to support my running goals 🙂

Holy red face & exhaustion...

Shortly after I finished Katy came through looking strong! She ended up with a Half Marathon PR, but felt like she could have pushed it harder. I think she is absolutely going to smash that time in the next half she runs!!

In general I am feeling extremely encouraged with the training and hill preparation I have done thus far in my training, I’m going to take a look at my plan this week and really start to pin point certain areas where I can tweak my plan to make sure I run the strongest race possible on 7/31/11. The biggest victory in this race was feeling strong on the tough hills and enjoying myself throughout the entire run. Getting back to enjoying running and staying injury free is such a refreshing and welcomed feeling! I am really looking forward to the rest of my training cycle and having more races and long runs similar to the 2011 Heartbreak Hill Half!

Paying for Over Indulging

For the most part, I consider myself a healthy eater. I like to stick to whole grains, fresh, local ingredients and I’m obsessed with produce. My whole work day actually revolves around eating! I try my best to make good decisions, but sometimes I have a hard time resisting temptation. What makes it especially hard is the amount of sweets and junk food that filter in and out of my office. Oh, and the two award winning bakeries around the corner from my office? Those don’t help either.

So after a workoutless weekend, I arrived at my office Monday morning determined to be EXTRA good. That was until lunch time when a few of my coworkers went out and bought cupcakes for a coworker’s birthday! These aren’t just any cupcakes, they are melt in your mouth, LIFE CHANGING cupcakes… I resisted for as long as possible, and then decided to have a quarter of a cupcake, that can’t be all that bad, right?

Then, a an hour later, another quarter…then 30 minutes later “Oh, I didn’t notice this wonderful s’mores cupcake” Another quarter.

[Read more…]

Heartbreak Hill Half Marathon: Race Report

The name of his race does not lie, the hills of Newton to induce absolute heart break. What’s missing? The plural, because it certainly caused multiple Heartbreaks for me, as well as most of the 500 person field of runners over the challenging 13.1 mile course of the Heartbreak Hill Half.

The day didn’t start out with heartbreak though. I woke up at 6am and despite not getting the best night of sleep in my life, I popped right out of bed. I went straight to the kitchen and put on the coffee, mostly for my boyfriend who was playing chauffeur and cheerleader and is not exactly a morning person. After getting everything in order, we were off and on our way to Newton. The drive from my apartment was relatively quick, but we were cutting it a little close, so of course I was stressed about timing. Luckily we found a parking spot immediately, and I jetted off to find the closest bathroom. In order to make it there in time I ran over to minimize time anxiety and get a little warm up run in. I was in and out within a few minutes and I was running back to the start line. On my way there I ran into my boyfriend, who was waiting patiently for me and told me he saw my coworker, Melisa, who was running her first half marathon. I was bummed that I missed her, but all I could focus on was running 13.1 miles, EEK! I gave him a kiss and ran on my way to the start line. After a few moments of waiting around the gun went off and I was over the start line within seconds.

Here we go!

I knew the course was going to be challenging, so I decided to go out conservatively and try to keep an even pace throughout the race. When I saw the elevation chart I threw out the notion of getting closer to my PR (1:50), and just tried to settle into a pace. I was holding back, but I felt like everyone around me was absolutely flying by me. I told myself they were newbies, or didn’t know the extent of the elevation on this course. Immediately the course started punishing my legs, and since this was and out and back course, I realized that a hill at the first mile was the killer hill at mile 12 that everyone said to save a little gas in the tank. CRAP. I continued on, focusing more of my thoughts on an efficient stride and body position. The course was rolling for the next few miles before it leveled out (somewhat) for about a mile to a mile and a half. The rest of the course, however, was more rolling hills and mountains to climb. UGH.

Somewhere around mile 3, already feeling fatigued

I was able to get through the first 5 miles of the course without many problems, but by the time I reached Heartbreak my legs were completely gassed. As I looked up the historic hill at which many marathons are won and lost, I whined to myself for a half second and then put my head down and trudged on. After a few minutes I stopped and walked, my legs were so tight and exhausted that I needed the break. Not surprisingly, this started a bad habit for the rest of the race. I started running after a quick walk and ran until the gigantic hill located at the halfway point of the race. I thought to myself, “Well, here it is, FINALLY”. I was exhausted just looking at it, but it actually gave me a sense of relief that it was no longer something to fear. I ran to the top of the hill and started walking again, ICK. I was walking along when an older man that I saw earlier in the race run up to me and say “come on yellow shirt, let’s go!”, he even went as far to grab my arm and pull me along. Some people absolutely hate this, but I couldn’t get enough. Maybe I have a secret sign on my forehead that reads “glutton for punishment. I chatted with him a little bit about my lack of hill training and then as soon as we started down the hill I lost him. Older guy in the grey shirt, THANK YOU for getting me through that horrific hill!

Then, I made my way back down heartbreak, hooray for downhills! I was coasting along when I saw my coworker Melisa in the distance. She was all smiles and I ran up and gave her a hug, she looked great! What an awesome attitude for such a killer first half marathon. Her great attitude definitely helped propel me through the next 15 minutes of the race! The rest of heartbreak was a nice break from the rolling hills, but the downhills were rough on my battered legs. When we crossed from Heartbreak to the winding neighborhoods my heart sank. This course was not only a test of your running ability, but a test of will.

The rest of the race was a blur. I felt waves of depression, exhaustion and sheer determination to finish this race and put it in the books. Around mile 10 I misread the mile marker and thought I was on mile 11, which I learned was not the case when I reached the mile 11 marker, UGH. The saving grace was seeing my boyfriend around mile 11, where I told him about my mishap, how hard the race was and thanked him for the bottle of water he had waiting for me. Attempting to harness this lift in my spirits, I gave him a kiss and went on my way. I felt as if the rest of the race went on forever, though I attempted to just keep my head down and run. When we finally turned the corner to Newton South High School I almost cried out of sheer joy “oh sweet Jesus, THANK YOU!” I turned up the intensity with whatever energy I had left and pushed on to the finish. The minute I crossed the finish line I let out a huge sigh of relief, IT’S OVER!! My time, which is over 15 minutes off my best, could not have meant less at that moment. After I got my medal, some water and met up with my boyfriend we went out to the road to see if we could find my coworker Melisa. Her goal was to finish under 2:45, so I knew she was a ways away from finishing, but I decided to get out there and cheer anyways. All of the runners had a look of pain and elation as they headed for the finish line, I was happy to see I wasn’t being over dramatic, the race was really THAT hard. Rob even told me that every finisher was complaining about the elevation, thank goodness I’m not THAT big of a wuss. After about 25 minutes we gave up, and went back to Rob’s car. Right before we got there we were chased down by Rob’s friend Lauren from college who also ran the race. We talked a bit about the course and snapped a picture before we went off on our way:


So, lesson learned from this half marathon? ALWAYS check the elevation chart of a race and train accordingly! Even though I changed up my training with including speed work, gentle pickups and tempo runs, that wasn’t enough. Hill raining can simply can not be neglected and I dropped the ball, big time.

Will I do this race again? Doubtful. Was it a good experience? Yes. The race directors and volunteers did a fantastic job keeping everyone on track and motivated. I would have loved more spectators, but I knew this course wasn’t going to offer much in that department, so I was ok with it. All in all, it was a difficult day and I’m happy I ran the race. It’s given me a chance to kickstart my training for the Chicago Marathon, an excuse to focus on my diet, experiment with different cross training elements and trim down. It was a challenge, but what fun is running if you never have a challenge?