This past weekend marked my third event with Team in Training (TNT.) This organization, an extension of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, helps train everyday people to become endurance athletes. In addition to getting a complete training program with group practices and nutrition coaching for half marathons, marathons and triathlons, participants raise money toward cancer research and patient support services to help families in their struggles with blood related cancers.
For me, this organization has been a real gateway into the running community. It took me from being some one who ran on the treadmill for 20 min at the gym or in the park for 3 miles on the weekend, some one who never timed herself, had little idea about pacing and had never run a race, into a marathoner and completely obsessed runner. I first came in contact with the organization in 2008 and trained with them to complete the Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco. You can read more about that and my connection to the cause here. That was also the first time I wrote a "running song" as part of my fundraising. Here is the youtube video.
So far the marathon has not been my favorite racing distance. It's hard to get ready for and the training is very time consuming. However, I knew after completing one that I had to do New York. I've been watching friends do that one too many years in a row. I also wanted to be sure to train right, so I signed up for TNT again as a mentor. This way I didn't have to do as much fundraising and could help others in completing the task.
As a mentor I was assigned to the Hamptons Half & Full Marathon as my official event. I am guessing it was because I already had guaranteed entry into the New York Marathon so they gave those spots to the people who needed TNT to secure their registration. Doing the Hamptons Half as a preparation race for NY works out well because it's just over a month before the big race and it's not too far to travel.
I got lucky because my sweetie A.H. used to work out in the Hamptons so he knew some one we could stay with for free. It was a fun weekend.
When we first got out there the weather was miserable! It was cold and rainy. I got A. to do a quick 20 min jog with me, our first run together ever (I'm trying to convert him) and I started wondering about whether that purple singlet was going to be adequate given the weather.
Glory, glory Hallelujah! The weather the next morning felt like nothing short of a miracle! It was gloriously sunny and crisp, the perfect conditions for a race. We rolled in with just enough time to make it through the porta-potty line. I didn't have time to get cold because no sooner had I found my mentee Ken, author and pacing buddy, in the corral than the gun went off. My adrenaline was pumping and soon I talking Ken's ear off about complete drivel. At that point I decided it would be better for both of us if I broke off and let him have his own race. I figured it would be a matter of time before he passed me as our history showed; I liked to take off faster only to have him catch me about two thirds into the race.
My plan was to run the first 5 miles in an 8:40-9:00 mile/min pace window, run the second 5 miles in 8:30-8:50 min pace window and do the last 3.1 miles all out. My PR race was a 1:57:09 at a 8:56 pace so I figured as long as I was doing sub 9 minute miles I would probably PR. Still, it took me a year of running half marathons and chipping a couple minutes off at a time to get down to that so I was a little nervous about sustaining the new pace for that long. I blew it in 5 miles by coming in a minute plus faster than the bottom of the pace window, but I felt great so I didn't worry too much about it.
The course was beautiful. We went by fields and through woods. There was even a stretch on a dirt road. A couple weeks before I had the opportunity to do the "Reach the Beach" relay with some TNT team mates in New Hampshire. That terrain was the perfect preparation for the Hamptons race. That experience also changed my mindset a lot about how hard and fast I could push myself in race conditions. I did all my relay legs in around at or near and 8 min mile pace and felt pretty good about it. Unfortunately, I haven't had a chance to put together a good blog post about that experience but our captain Joel wrote a great one that can be found here.
As I came into the 10 mile mark I noted that I was no longer below my pace window but still safely inside of it. I was starting to think about speeding up when Ken came trotting up behind me. I was surprised I hadn't seen him before this point and tried for awhile to keep up with him as part of my speed increase. Unfortunately he lost me before we had run a mile together. Miles 11 and 12 were very scenic as they took us along the harbor with a nice view of water and troupe of girls scouts all very eager to give us water and gatorade.
When I hit mile 13 I could have sworn the clock read 1:43 something. This got me excited because I thought there maybe a chance of coming in near 1:50 for my total time. The previous weekend I had done the NYRR 5th Ave mile race with a time of 6:31. I thought if I could pick it up maybe I could at least whip out one sub 8 min mile. I made my best effort to pick up the pace but weirdly I felt like I was running slower. It was unfortunately up hill toward the end. Also, there was that extra .1 of a mile. Anyway, maybe I was wrong because I'm sure it was still sub 10 min....
1:53:34 - 8:43 pace - PR by 3:35 minutes!
Overall, I felt strong for the majority of the race, only the last couple of miles sucked because I tried to push the speed. I'm going to take this as a sign of more PRs to come. I wasn't sure once I got sub 2 hours that I would chip away at it much farther, but now that seems more plausible. It's also got me thinking about a sub 4 hour marathon, but we'll see about that in month.
The thing about being a mentor is that your job isn't done once you cross the finish line. I chatted with some of my faster mentees to see how their races went. Then I went back out onto the course to cheer on some of the slower mentees and the marathoners who were still racing. This is the moment that makes doing all the extra paperwork and weekly emails required for being a mentor pay off. It's really rewarding watching some one who probably never thought they could be a runner cross the finish line of a half marathon or marathon. Being a part of a team makes the whole experience extra fulfilling because there are coaches, mentors and team mates cheering you all along the course. There were lots of good feelings to go around that day, it was definitely a success.
If you are interested in learning more about or supporting this organization I encourage you to check out the website by clicking here. Even though the fall season is coming to a close it's never too late to donate. Also there are plenty of slots open for future events! Thank you to anyone reading this who already took the time to donate. Your generosity plays an important role in making so many good things happen! You are the reason that this organization can continue to make people healthier.
Keep on Running and Rocking everybody!