On Sunday, September 22nd, 2013, I ran the 9th Annual Wilmington Half Marathon. This was a local race, about 15 minutes from my house, so I drove up by myself. When I got there I met several friends from the Melrose Running Club and the Mystic Running Club.
I arrived in plenty of time and was able to go through my full pre-race routine. The packet pickup was very easy with volunteers directing me to the right place inside the local cable access channel building. I could see some of the editing booths and I was impressed with the quality of the equipment.
After I got my number I headed for the porta-potty which at this point did not have a line and was pretty clean. I headed back to my car to put on my number, change into my Newtons and continue my pre-race routine. On the way back to my car I met my friends Bill Ozaslan and Mike Hartin. We grabbed a few pics and then we each went off to get ready.
I put my tape on my toes. Put on fresh running socks and double tied my laces. My new shoes have never come untied before, but I wanted to be sure nothing would go wrong today. The timing chip was an ankle strap which I had used once before in Saugus. This race was managed by the same company, B&S Race Management.
Various community organizations were handing out water bottles and having raffles. Back at my car I sipped on my ice cold water and ate fig and strawberry bars as I got ready for the race. I tried not to drink too much so that I could hit the porta potties one last time before the start and not need to make another stop during the race.
Fig bars have served me well several times before. They are substantial and keep me full for a long time. They also have several types of sugars which several articles and manufacturer’s web sites say is the best way to get maximum glucose into your cells. I was going to take four cookies with me in my running belt but took a GU and a PowerBar Performance pack instead. It was supposed to rain and the cookies would have been a mess in a down poor!
Running the Wilmington Half Marathon
The race started at 10:10AM. On the right they had the 5K runners line up and on the left they had the half-marathon runners line up. Somehow I didn’t figure this out until a few minutes before the start. I stepped sideways from the 5K corral to the half corral and found myself about 2 people from the starting line. I really didn’t plan to go out like a rocket, but here I was at the head of the pack.
They didn’t play the National Anthem or have a moment of silence for the Navy Yard shooting or for the two cyclist who had been killed the day before in Hampton, NH. I expected a moment of silence but I was okay with just getting on with it. There are senseless tragedies in this country every day. Even one death is tragic. We can’t be in tribute every day; maybe we should just thank our lucky stars that we are not directly involved and pay tribute to those who have lost their lives by being kind to those around us.
They did a verbal count down to the start. My buddy Bill was in front of me, hunkered down like a sprinter. He had his hand on the start button for his watch and I joked with him he looked like he was gonna fly out of the start. Several other people were in similar poses and we all had a bit of a chuckle. When they yelled “Go” I started my watch and off we went.
The first turn was about 100 yards down Waltham Street onto Middlesex Ave. Everyone was still grouped together and I was at the front of the pack. Before Mile 1 we turned onto Glenn Rd and the group started to thin out. There were about twenty of us in the lead group and I could see my buddy Mike Hartin in front of me.
As we made the next several turns and passed Mile 3 I could still see the police car leading us down the road and my buddy Mike. I knew I was running too fast if I could still see Mike and the lead of the race. My first mile was 7:16 and I was shocked. My next few miles were under 7:31.
There were some hills along the way, but nothing serious. I tried forefoot running when we got to hills. Part of this was to get in some practice with this method and part of it was to propel myself up the hills. Somehow the mechanics of this running style make me run faster up hills. I used to just try not to lose too much speed going up hills. Now I can maintain my speed and usually increase it.
Going up hills like this does have a price. I could feel my heart beating and the strain on my muscles. The night before I set my pace to 8:00 and turned on the alarm for heart rate, pace and laps. I was running so hard that the heart rate alarm kept going off. After a few miles all of the racket was beginning to bother me. I thought it might annoy everyone around me, but they all seemed to be wearing head phones! After the race another runner and I figured 70% of the runners wore head phones, but neither of us did.
Hitting my pace
Mile 4 was 7:40 so I decided I needed to push a little hard on the next hills and run a little faster on the down hills. I stayed below 7:40 until mile 8. I brought a disposable water bottle with me so I skipped the first two or three stops. After mile 4 I took my GU and a gulp of water from my bottle.
Just after mile 5 we crossed over I-95 onto Woburn St. Off of Woburn we wound through a neighborhood and back down Woburn St and across the bridge again. Just after the bridge we hit mile 8. I felt pretty good considering where we were in the race. Just after we crossed the rail road tracks we hit mile 9 and I started to think about taking my PowerBar Performance pack.
Before we turned onto Lowell St. I took my PowerBar apple sauce pack. I like these because they taste like apple sauce and it’s like getting a swig of water all at the same time. We were down to the last three miles, less than a 5K to go. I was running hard but I felt ok. Nothing really hurt but I was throwing everything I had into this race.
The chase is on!
Looking down Lowell Street I could see a woman in a bright shirt ahead of me and I decided to catch up to her. I managed to catch her and Mike, and kept on going. Before the race, Mike said he was going to go out easy, because he has a marathon next weekend. I still didn’t expect to catch him.
As we turned onto Adams St. I spotted a runner in a bright yellow shirt and set my sights on him. At each rise in the road I was able to close the gap a little. With less than a mile to go to the finish I managed to pass him. He was running hard and after the race he told me he was completely spent after about mile 10 or so. He was running pretty well for a guy who was spent.
Finishing the Wilmington Half Marathon
As we made the last corner on Middlesex Rd. I knew that Waltham St. and the end were near. I was still running hard but was getting exhausted. As I turned onto Waltham the finish line seemed a mile away. I knew it was only 100 yards or so and decided to kick it in. I ran as hard as my body would let me but the clock turned to 1:40 before I could cross the timing mat.
At several points along the course they had people reading out our time as we ran past them. I was able to do the math in my head, miraculously! At the first timer I was about 2.5 minutes ahead, I knew I was going to beat 1:45 so I set my sights on 1:40. I have backed off on goals so many times during a race; it was nice to increase my goal for a change. I wasn’t just trying to finish this race, I was not out to crush my PR.
The second timer called 1:08 if I remember correctly. I was over 3 minutes ahead of my 8:00 pace goal and I had about 5 miles to go. I estimated that if I kept up my pace of 7:40 or so I would beat my new goal of 1:40. Five miles at the end of a half marathon is a lot of miles to cover but I knew if I pushed as hard as I could there was a chance I could hit my goal.
My official time was 1:40.07! I wasn’t sure I was under 1:41 when I crossed the mat, but I knew that I had set a new PR. Not bad for a guy who just turned 49. The guy in the yellow shirt came in soon after I did and we ended up talking after the race. His name is Chip and we discussed fueling and how to keep your energy up during a long race. I encouraged him to join a club to help improve his running. Like I’m an expert!
My buddy Mike came in right behind me also. I knew Mike was saving it for next week, but I still felt pretty good coming in ahead of a guy who I know is a very strong runner. He called me an “animal out there” or something like that.
At the food tent I ate 5 or 6 pieces of water melon. Ever since having water melon at the St. George’s Day 5K in Tenant’s Harbor a few years ago, I’ve been convinced that melon is the best after race food. I kept checking with the lady at the table that there was plenty left for everyone else. There was she assured me.
I headed back to my car to grab my Gatorade 03 recovery beverage with protein. This stuff was more like Muscle Milk than regular Gatorade. I think I had a different variety at the end of the 2012 Boston Marathon. This stuff did not taste as good as I remember and I think Muscle Milk tastes better.
After long runs I’ve started to drink beverages like this to aid in my recovery. I’m not a kid anymore and I need all the help I can get to stay in the game. I know there is a lot of marketing hype behind these products, but I still believe in science. Current science says it is good to consume protein and carbs to aid in the recovery process. Some articles say to drink low fat chocolate milk after a hard work out. These fancy drinks like Muscle Milk and Gatorade Recovery don’t cost that much more than a bottle of chocolate milk. I’m hoping the lab guys have improved what Mother Nature created.
A colleague of mine was also running this race. Larry Bradley is General Council at my company and one hell of a runner. Somewhere around mile 8 or 9 he passed me with little effort. We recognized each other from the gym and exchanged hello’s, and off he went. Larry has a smooth and fairly efficient running style. I always watch people run, and not just the women!
He cruised right along and eventually was out of sight. Larry ended up crossing the finishing line at 1:38:27 and clinched 1st place for his age group. We were chatting as the awards ceremony started and he said he had to go. He asked if I could pretend to be him and pick up any award he might get. I’m not a good “liar” but figured I could do it as long as they didn’t look at the bib number on my shorts. I know it’s been done many times before but I’m not good at pretending. I encouraged him to stay for a few more minutes as they were getting to our age groups.
I didn’t expect to win anything but when they got to the Men’s 40-49 group I heard them say, “And from Medford, Andrew…” as the announcer struggled with my name. I knew it was me and I couldn’t believe it. 3rd place in my age group? I knew a bunch of people finished in front of me and 40 to 49 is a wide bracket with lots of strong runners.
As I shook the announcers hand and he asked if I was me, I must have looked like I was getting a gold medal. A PR and a medal? Holly Shit! After he released me from his firm hand shake I went to the two people behind him who handed me a medal. I went back through the crowd and stood next to Larry. They got to his age group and announced his name last as he was 1st in his age group. He seemed to know he was going to win something.
He came back all smiles and we had handshakes all around. I had been standing there with my medal and finishers ribbon in my hand. Then it dawned on me that I could put the medal around my neck. I was the 3rd place guy. It was okay. Wow!
Bill and I went back to the food tent where previously he found out that the guy managing the ice cream chest was the winner of the race in 1968 and 1969. It turned out the race was only 5 miles back then. In 1968 he was the only guy over 30; everyone else was in high school. In 1969 there were three guys in his age bracket. I think he said he won in 1972 also.
This was back in the era before running was big. I remember how running became popular in the 1970’s. I was a kid but I remember Bruce Jenner running into the Olympic Stadium in Montreal to win the Olympic Marathon and the Decathlon. It was huge.
As we walked back to our cars Bill said we should check the results. They were taped on the side of the B&S Events Management trailer. I noticed that I was 4th out of 28 guys. I was instantly deflated. Had they made a mistake? Was there another Andrew from Medford and in my haste I grabbed someone else’s medal? My friends all heard my name and no one asked me for their medal afterwards. What had happened? I don’t win awards often but I assume if the other guy went home they don’t keep going down the list until they find someone present who can take the medal.
On Monday I realized that the guy who came in 2nd overall was in my age group. Since you can only win one award, my 4th place put me in 3rd place. I’ve seen this rule on race web sites before, so it’s not unusual. But I still somehow feel less excited even though I know it happens all the time.
HERE is the link to the full Half Marathon and 5K results on Cool Running.
Planning for The Bay State Marathon
My next race is the Smuttynose Half Marathon. In Wilmington I proved I can run a 7:39 pace for 13.1 miles. For Smuttynose I need to work on my pace and see if I can maintain a 7:49 or 8:00 pace. I need 7:49 or better at Bay State to qualify for Boston. My 7:39 pace would have me ahead of my goal at the half marathon mark at Bay State. I could run the second half of that race at 7:53 and hit my 7:49 pace goal.
Any marathon runner will tell you that the second 13.1 miles are a lot different than the first 13.1 miles. After mile 20 anything can happen.
If everything goes right on race day, if my training goes well and I fuel and hydrate well on race day, I could actually BQ at Bay State.
The dream lives!