Earth, Rock, Run Recap

3 weeks until the Boston Run to Remember Half Marathon

5 weeks until the Tough Mudder New England

6 weeks until the Spectacle Island 5K

10 weeks until the Sasquatch Trail Race

19 weeks until the TARC Fall Classic Half Marathon

24 weeks until the Baystate Marathon

I did it! I finished my first official half marathon and it was a challenging one. 685 ft of elevation gain with the largest hill located conveniently at mile 11. Earth Rock Run Half Marathon will go down in history as not only my first half marathon, but as my hilliest road race yet.

My husband signed up to volunteer at the race, so we arrived 8:15am, almost two hours before the start. I ate my usually pre-long run breakfast in the car and waited for a fellow No Meat Athlete to come. It was pretty hot, but I opted not to wear my Nathan hydration vest since I read that there would be water stops every 2 miles along the race. Once my friend came, we headed over to the starting line. I was pretty nervous and my pre-race jitters were telling me to use the restroom one last time. Unfortunately, that was made impossible by the extremely long line at the porta pottys, so I had to just go for it! At 10:00am, the race started. There were so many people crowded into an unorganized corral that just getting across the starting line was tough. Within the first mile I flew past the 2:30 pacer and 2:15 pacer, but the 2:00 pacer was no where in sight. The first 2 miles seemed so long but then I saw my husband in the distance waving a flag and directing the runners to turn. I snagged a much needed high-five from my love, and headed off. 

Miles 2-5 went smoothly, except for a slight cramp I got at mile 4. The course was hilly, but manageable. I kept a comfortable pace and for the most part stayed with the same group of runners. The heat was making me feel slightly dehydrated but the multiple water stops helped. Up until this run I had never used any type of fuel (i.e. gatorade, gels, Gu). At mile 6 they were handing out orange flavored Gu gels and almost every runner in front of me grabbed one, so I figured "why the hell not?!". I know you aren't suppose to do anything new on race day, but technically this wasn't a race day for me, it was a training run for the Boston Run to Remember. It took me a second to rip the top off, but I actually thought it was pretty tasty. I didn't consume the whole gel because I was too nervous about getting an upset stomach, but I still ate about half. After eating it I needed water badly, and had to wait two more miles before that was possible. I'm not sure if it helped, but it didn't seem to hurt.

I wore my Garmin GPS watch, but hadn't been checking distance or pace until the half way point. At exactly 6.5 miles, I checked and my time was roughly 58 minutes! My first thought was "I could do this in two hours!" but my second thought was to slow it down a bit since this was only suppose to be a training run. Good thing I went with my second thought, because the course was only going to get harder, and I needed that energy. Somewhere along mile 8 I saw my husband again and it was a very great moment. I had no idea that he would be somewhere else along the race, so it was an awesome surprise to see a familiar face again. 

Miles 8-10 were tough physically. My legs were getting tired from the continuous hills, but mentally I felt great. The course was really stunning at times, and it was a great distraction from any negative thoughts. The small crowds of people standing on their front lawns were so supportive. I slapped every child's hand that was held out, and even hit a sign one child held that said "hit here for more power!". There was also some people playing guitar along the way, and although I couldn't hear them with my headphones in, I still felt a positive vibe from it. 

At mile 11 I was ready to sprint to the finish until I came upon a gut-wrenching, steep, and very tall hill. Throughout the race after each big hill I would tell myself "I bet this is the last one"; and then I hit the biggest hill of them all. 80% of the runners ahead of me were walking it, and it was a mental battle to convince myself I should keep running. The one thing that kept me going was my No Meat Athlete tank top. On the back it says "Runs on Plants". My motto to keep me from walking was "my shirt says RUNS on plants, not WALKS on plants". Although it was probably more of a shuffling effort than actually running, I made it to the top and was less than 1.5 miles from the finish line. Now it was sprinting time. I used every bit of energy I had and pushed forward. The last mile was mostly downhill. My legs felt like jelly, and I thought I was going to fall on my face but there was no stopping me from using this downhill to my advantage. Once we rounded the last corner and the finish line was in sight, I sprinted like I have probably never sprinted in my life. As I was about to cross the finish line the announcer said "Here comes Samantha LeBlanc from Medford, MA who runs on plants... I run on plants too!". Such a proud moment. Although my husband was still volunteering at another part of the race, my grandparents and mother-in-law were at the finish line and I was so happy to see them! 

My unofficial time was 13.17 miles in 2:02:20. My official time was 13.1 miles in 2:01:50. Couldn't be prouder of that time. It's not a personal record, but with the course, the heat, and the type of run I was going for, it was a perfect time. If I had known beforehand that the course was going to be that challenging, I probably would not have signed up for it, especially so close to the Boston Run to Remember. However, I'm so glad I did. I feel so much more confident in my abilities, as well as my training and nutrition, and I can not wait to race again on May 24th!

I also signed up for two more future races. The first one is a 5K race on Spectacle Island. My husband is doing the couch-to-5k, and this will be is first 5K race. I'm so proud of him, and can not wait to cheer him on like he does for me at all my races. It would also be nice if I set a 5K PR (just sayin'). The other race is the Sasquatch Trail Race which is 2.35 miles. It was the first race that I have ever did a couple years ago. It's a difficult trail race, but short and a lot of fun. I'm excited to go back see what I can do now!