Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Flower Power

We spent an enjoyable five hours in Rochester on April 26, leaving home at 5 a.m. to prepare for a 7:30 race start. I was there to run the Flower City Half Marathon, the first time I've done this race, but not the first time racing in Rochester, and hubby was there, as always, to provide support and take photos. Athletes numbering nearly 2,300 enjoyed nearly perfect running conditions (I would have liked about 5 more degrees), but for spectators it seemed a bit chilly.

Still, crowd support was impressive, with only miles 10-12, along the Genesee Riverway Trail, a little sparse. After running riverside, we emerged onto the Ford Street Bridge after we passed a small group of string musicians (larger than a quartet but smaller than a symphony orchestra) playing "Eleanor Rigby." From there it was a straight shot to the finish line, and I was able to pick up speed and finish strong, stronger than I have in many previous races.

That's one groovy medal.
Traffic control was outstanding, with friendly and cheerful police officers urging us on. The whole vibe just felt good.

My goal for the race was 2:14, modest to be sure but also realistic considering a month before I had run a terrible Syracuse Half Marathon and a week before this half a disappointing 10K. I lined up behind the 2:15 pace group but, surprising myself, quickly passed the pacers and settled in for the long haul. I was upset with myself when that group caught me with less than a mile to go. But I thought to myself, "Aw, hell no!" and left them in the dust.

Around mile 3 (I think), we entered a historic district featuring Susan B. Anthony's home. The supporters there, dressed in Anthony-era clothing, held signs saying "Votes for Runners." Similar fun and distracting support continued throughout.

The first half of the race followed flat city streets, taking us through downtown Rochester and then neighborhoods with lovely homes. Then, looming ahead, was the first tough hill of the course. I reminded myself how my girl, Deena Kastor, approaches changes in elevation: It gives the muscles something different to work with, so no worries. Still, the hills seemed relentless as we entered Highland Park and then Mount Hope Cemetery. Unlike in the Springtime 10K, I kept going. I refused to stop. I will conquer these hills. My reward for doing so was the flat that made up the remainder of the race.

Over and over again I spied a little boy dressed in a Spiderman suit, handing out high-fives (he and his dad must have been supporting mom/wife). We saw signs of support aplenty, among my favorites "You Look Skinny!" and "This is a lot of work for a free banana."

My overall goal this season is to work on the mental aspects of racing--when I feel like slowing to a walk, talk myself out of it; if a foot starts to twinge, give it a half-mile or so and then check in with it; remind myself that I have raced this distance before, whatever distance it is; and, above all, run the mile you are in. That last really helped me on Sunday.

After a helpful runner told me "That was the worst hill," upon conquering the first one, another runner said, "But it wasn't the only hill." There are more hills to come? Worry about them when you get there, not when they're still two miles away. And once the hills had been vanquished, a helpful spectator said, "That's it for the hills." No more hills? "Nope!" And I reached mile 9, knowing I had gotten through the worst of it. Only 4.1 miles to go. . .