The Hyannis Half Marathon was yesterday. I met some of my goals (not stressing out or making my family crazy) and missed others (I ran slower than I thought I would), and I had a lot more fun than I ever thought. It was definitely a success.
I have to say first that we had no idea what Hyannis was like before we went. We'd only been to Cape Cod once before and our experiences were good; it seemed like a nice place. But Hyannis was a strange town and completely unlike other Cape towns. It was bleak. A local told us that people hear "Hyannis" and they think "Hyannis Port" which is a nice area, but that Hyannis is actually the dumpiest town on the Cape. Poor Hyannis.
The race seemed well organized, but it was too crowded for my taste. I don't think it was the amount of people, it was that the venue was not adequate for the amount of people. I was pretty panicked a couple of times inside the convention center, and I'm not claustrophobic. I almost trampled some small children.
We arrived on Saturday afternoon after a 90 minute drive. We hadn't managed our meals well that day, so we were starving when we arrived and had a hard time figuring out where to eat. We finally settled for a Dunkin Donuts, which was woefully understaffed (one person!) so it took 15 minutes to get our donuts. It wasn't an auspicious start to the weekend. Once we'd refueled, we went over to the convention center to pick up my number and check out the expo, and the sadness continued. The packet pickup was great, but I felt sad for the expo. We hightailed it out of there and checked in to our room at the Holiday Inn. Maple was dying for a swim, so we hung out poolside for a while before getting ready for dinner at Alberto's. Dinner was decent and not too sad. I obeyed all the stuff I'd read about not eating anything that looked like a fruit or vegetable (for fear of GI issues during the race), and ate some gnocchi with very spicy arrabiatta sauce.
My morning fueling plan worked great. I woke a little before 6 (race start was a leisurely 10am), drank my Vega energizer (which always moves things along), then some green tea. At 7am I ate about 1.5 oatmeal packets. We headed out for coffee (for Sean) in Barnstable around 8 and made it to the race at 9. I waited in a 30-minute bathroom line and that was it - no more elimination until 6pm last night! I may have been a little dehydrated, but at least I didn't have to pee during the race.
I had been focusing on relaxing during the whole trip, but I also had a plan for the race: I'd try to run 9:30 pace (I memorized the splits), calculating by the mile markers and my non-GPS watch. I failed to imagine that the mile markers would be clockless and perched on orange cones by the side of the road. I didn't see one until mile 8. But everyone around me was wearing Garmins, so I could sort of measure pace by the beeps. Anyway, when the gun went off, I felt so relaxed and I was having such a good time that I decided I wasn't attached to my pace plan. After all, it was just supposed to be a sort of race rehearsal. I didn't really taper properly to run really well, and I felt strongly that it would be better to make it to the marathon injury- and MS-relapse-free than run a "fast" half.
From the start, I focused on going slow. I remember thinking that I had no idea what pace I was going with all these people running around me. It was like I lost any ability to read my own pace in that crowd. So I just kept thinking, run slow. Run slow. The course was really nice and completely made up for the sadness of the town and the expo. There were some rolling hills but overall the course was flat and scenic. The weather was gorgeous: 30 and sunny and just enough wind too keep me from sweating much. I held back until mile 8 or so, and then I slowly started speeding up. I passed a lot of people around mile 10 and 11 and it felt good to be so spunky at the end of the race. I sprinted flat out at the end - I can't wait to see the video of that. (Not really.) Sean and Maple cheered for me in the finish chute and that was great.
I can't believe how fun the race was. I listened to people's conversations, I watched people's style, their gear, their stride. I caught glimpses of the ocean and enjoyed the light. I ran by churches and houses and annoyed drivers. But I felt SO good the whole time. I was so happy to be out there. The idea that I was running a half marathon was amazing to me. When I saw the finish chute I burst into tears. When I realized that breathing was incompatible with crying, I stopped, but as soon as I stopped running I cried some more. I am nothing if not crazy emotional.
During the race, I drank some sips of water and Gatorade and ate about 5 Gu Chomps. Next time I need to time it better so that I have water right after I have the Chomps; by the end of the race my mouth was completely sugared together and I had Chomps stuck in crevices of my mouth that I didn't know existed. But my energy was good the whole way, so it sort of worked. At one point I doused myself (and the poor volunteer holding the cup) with Gatorade. Sorry lady!
After the race, I tried to get to the other side of the finish chute where Sean and Maple were waiting for me. The only way I could figure out to get there was to go through the convention center. That was a huge mistake because it was crazy packed in there. I considered screaming like a crazy person so people would get out of my way. It was wall-to-wall people. It took me 25 minutes (and 2 years off my life) to go about 100 feet through a hallway.
As soon as I found Sean and Maple, we headed back to the hotel where I got in the shower to warm up. That was the most heavenly shower of my life. I put on my compression socks and used the Stick before we headed out to get pizza. Unfortunately, the Yelp ratings for Hyannis are relative to the general mediocrity of everything in that town, so the 4-star pizza place was almost unbearably bad. I was too hungry to care, but Sean was in his right mind and I think he took a couple of forget-me-nows after that meal.
Today I was a little tired and I have a few sore spots, but overall I feel good. I learned so much during this race: what works for fueling pre-race, what doesn't work during the race, how not to not pace myself, how not to splash Gatorade on innocent race volunteers. If I could do it again, I might wear the Garmin and start out a bit faster. Then again, I might not. I definitely wouldn't have been so relaxed with that thing on.
In short, it was fun and I loved it and I will never do that race again.