Tuesday, June 26, 2012 --
This past Sunday was the Fairfield Half Marathon presented by Stratton Faxon. This race was basically a last minute add on to the schedule after I learned about the Half Fanatics, and wanted to qualify by running 6 half marathons in 6 calendar months. I noticed that on my race schedule, I was already signed up for half marathons in May, July, August, September and October, and if I added a half in June I would hit that second level criteria. I searched and searched for half marathons in June and came up with just a few I was able to complete due to my other triathlons scheduled.
I finally stumbled upon the half marathon in Fairfield, CT on June 24th, and knew I had found my half for June. I saw on the race website that the course had quite a bit of elevation change, but looking at an elevation chart with a wavy line, often does not do justice to the true elevations in my mind. It has always been difficult for me to translate that elevation chart into the difficulty of the course. Anyway, Amy decided she was going to do this race with me, and Sunday morning, we headed off to Fairfield, CT together.
Okay, so packet pick up was Sunday morning before the race. Not exactly what I want to be doing before a race, but you have to deal sometimes. Coming off my 1:54:16 half in Providence, I was still feeling good. I was hoping to again break 2 hours, but in the weeks leading up to this race was having some pain in my left hip. This was definitely slowing me down a little, but by the morning of the race it was feeling good. I knew I didn't want to push it though and hurt myself again, so my plan was to run between 2 hours and 2:05.
Now onto the race! The race had over four thousand participants and had a separate male and female start line (just to alleviate congestion at the start). I started around the middle of the men, and really did not know what to expect. I knew I had read several reports about this race where people said the hills were terrible and others where people said they were not as bad as everyone made them out to be. I now know that those in the second group are either superhuman or full of it. The race was pretty good for about the first mile, but an 8:30 am start meant the sun was blazing hot right from the beginning. After about a mile or a mile and a half, the hills came, and they just kept coming. And coming. And coming.
The hills were way worse than I anticipated. They were long and steep and as the hills came, the shade dissipated. My plan to run the whole race quickly went out the window. My new plan became run through the sun and walk/rest in the shade. I ran up a few of the smaller hills, but walked up all of the big hills. When I did run, I ran my pace. Through the first 6.5 miles I was right around a 2:02 half pace, but slowed a little in the second half of the race to finish with a 2:13:41. A time almost 20 minutes slower than my last half, but a time that I am still very proud of. My goal for the end of this race season was to break a 2:15 half marathon, so to have broken 2:15 on such a tough course in such a hot sun I am proud of myself and how far I have come since last year.
I do have to say that there were some great aspects of the race. I felt there was a lot of support from race volunteers and the community. There were a ton of people who came out on the course with their garden hoses to mist the runners and cool them off on such a hot day, the fire department rigged up a few misters to some hydrants, and there were some bands scattered around the course. Once I realized I wasn't going to be breaking any records, I decided to have as much fun with this race as I could. I went out of my way to high five anyone and everyone who was holding their hand out. It really was a lot of fun!
After I finished, I waited for Amy to come across the line and cheered along some of the other runners, also a lot of fun!