I still remember the feeling of excitement when I finished my first half marathon in 2014. It was the longest race I had ever taken part of and finished feeling ultra proud of myself. Flash forward to last month where I completed my 6th (I literally can’t believe this) half marathon. Running for nearly 2 hours gives me a huge sense of accomplishment but doesn’t render me completely useless upon finishing (like the Boston Marathon). So when Andrea Croak posted the DMSE Classic on Team With A Vision’s Facebook page, my interest was immediately piqued. Especially because half of our registration fee went to our charity.
The DMSE Classic is one of those “triple threat” races. It’s held on the campus of Merrimac College in North Andover, Massachusetts. On Saturday, the 5 & 10K (Five & Dime) & the Celebrity Mile races happen, Sunday is the half marathon. Many of my teammates from Team With A Vision and several of my friends took place in Saturday’s events where the temperatures soared into the high 80’s. Because of July’s usual heat and humidity, the gun times for the races were 7AM. Unlike most runners, I am not a morning person. My favorite races start at 9, my coffee has time to take effect by then. Because of this, I slept overnight in Andover in a hotel so I would be able to wake up and almost be at the race.
I actually got a pretty decent night’s sleep, which is rare for my overly active brain. Nights before races my brain usually spins and mulls over unknown race details. Apparently two Henieken before bed does the trick.
I got to the college around 6:25 and headed to get my bib and find my friends. At about 6:45 I finally found my friend Nicole Rand & Tracy Moynihan who both were not feeling 100% after both racing the five and dime the day before. I also ran into Becca Pizzi whose 5K I ran earlier this year. For a recap of that race, click here. Apparently I wasn’t the only one struggling with the 7 AM start. At about 6:50 Erich Manser, his guide and Andrea Croak rolled in and the rest of the field slowly made their way to the corrals. 388 of us participated in the race, which is definitely the smallest half I’ve participated in.
As we started out I felt really good. I wasn’t shooting for a PR, I just wanted to try to hit around a 1:45 finish. The first two miles were slightly downhill so my splits were faster than I was hoping for, then we hit “the hill”. From mile 2-3.5 we climbed 166 feet. My legs were starting to feel it as we crested the top. My pace dropped off a little and I knew then that the race was definitely going to be challenging. Especially 3.7 miles in when I saw the sign for mile 11 and knew we were going to be seeing “the hill” again later. These are the times when having a yoga practice comes in handy. I refocused my mind and tried to not think about what would be coming later in the race.
Miles 5-7 were great and I felt myself slowly finding my rhythm and feeling good. This is when we looped back through the college and I knew we were coming back to “the hill”, except we weren’t. We actually went straight where we had turned the last loop through and were faced with a longer, more gradual hill. Miles 7-9.5 were definitely a huge struggle. We faced even more elevation and through this part of the course and until I got to mile 11, I slowed down to an almost 10 minute mile.
Finally I crested the hill and knew I just had to suck it up and push hard the last 5k. We had one last hill from 11 to 12 but that meant it was a slow decline all the way to the finish. I crossed the finish line in 1:48.20 which I was pretty happy with. I ended up being in the top 21% overall, the top 30% of the men and top 42% of my age division. Not my best, not my worst. I’m excited for this upcoming fall half marathon season where it looks like I’ll be guiding in a few races for some of my Team With A Vision teammates. Keep on Running Fabulously everyone!