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!

Heartbreak Hill Half: Pre Race Report

It seems like just yesterday that I was outlining my half marathon training plan and signing up for the Katie Lynch Purple Shoes Heartbreak Hill Half Marathon. Snow was still covering the ground and my boyfriend and I were planning our next ski weekend when I signed up. Since then we’ve had sunny weather, 90 degree days, the Kentucky Derby, and now the race is just 3 days away! After Eight weeks of training, I’m feeling primed and ready. I’ve integrated speed work and tempo runs into my training plan and I anticipate great results. One of my biggest frustrations with marathon training is how broken down and slow I have become.  To combat this I have tested cross training combined with the challenge of interval speed work outs and gentle pick ups to help me ‘feel the need for speed’. I have felt confident and relatively healthy the entire time, so I am anticipating a solid performance, although I knew the course wasn’t easy, this is HEARTBREAK Hill afterall. I knew it was going to be tough, but I figured “I’m in shape, I can handle it” I felt this way until, I made the mistake of checking the elevation map for this race…

WOW. This is going to be tough, 836 feet of climbing? eek! I then made ANOTHER mistake of comparing the elevation chart to one from the Marine Corps Marathon, where the highest elevation was 160 feet. I immediately had flashbacks pop into my head of my chest tightening and suffering the breathe at mile 8 of the Marine Corps Marathon, which is one race I would like to erase from my memory! The highest point of the Heartbreak Hill Half is 280 feet, YIKERS! That’s an additional 120 feet of hill climbing, not to mention the increased frequency of hills compared to the MCM course.

I nervously told my friends about this new elevation discovery, and they shook their head and told me the best advice: trust your body! And you know what? They’re right. I might not have trained hills at the length that I should have, but at least I’ve geared up my training to include speed work and pushing through pain at the end of runs. Plus, it’s not like I haven’t conquered hills or tough courses before. So for the next few days I will be pushing aside fear, self doubt and past issues and looking forward to conquering the hills of Newton! Wish me luck!