Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Vermont Covered Bridges Half-Marathon

Did you know that there are more covered bridges per square mile in Vermont than any other place in the world? The Green Mountain state boasts over 100 of these unique features, scattered throughout the state. Did you know that there is a half marathon that runs near a handful of these picturesque structures, through the villages of Woodstock and Quechee? Yes folks, last Sunday I had the privilege of running in the 19th annual Vermont Covered Bridges Half Marathon

I had been looking forward to this race all year. Registration was open for a mere 18 minutes last December. I anxiously awaited the 7pm open time, and got my application in early. I was accepted, and then the 6 month countdown began. While I waited for this race, I tackled some other challenges. I ran the Half at Hamptons, where I set the PR I would be up against in Vermont. And who could forget Stu's 30k. Once you've run that, you'll never look at hills the same way again.

So as the CBHM crept closer, my excitement rose, along with my concern. If you read the last race recap, you know that I twisted my ankle during the Run To Home Base 9k, just two weeks ago. I had gone out for runs since, but very gingerly, and with the aid of an ankle sleeve. My strategy on race day would not be any different. Nice and slow to start, with the ankle brace. If I was feeling good, push the pace a bit. I wasn't sure what race day would have in store for me.

The night before, we stayed in the little town of Quechee. On Sunday morning, we awoke to a constant rain, with temperatures of just around 60F. I don't think it actually broke 61F that day, and the rain didn't really break either. Jenni dropped me off at the start, which was at the Suicide Six Ski Area. I mingled with other runners and chatted about the race. I learned of the "one hill" on the course, and one runner was nice enough to give me her trash bag to stay warm in the cold, driving rain.

At 10:15 on the nose, we began.

No corrals at this race, so the beginning was a bit of a cluster. Slow going, which was OK by me as I was paying really close attention to foot placement and trying not to turn my ankle again. The course takes you through open farmland, past the "Meadow Covered Bridge" and down into Woodstock, where we crossed the "Middle Bridge" (the only bridge you actually cross on the course). After a few miles, and certainly by the time I was in Woodstock, I was feeling pretty good. I was running just under 9:00 minute miles. At the 4 mile mark I decided it was time to push it a bit and get some in the bank.

Banking minutes has become my favorite strategy for the half marathon. Basically, I start out somewhat comfortably, and see what I'm pacing over the first 3-4 miles. Then the calculations begin: "If I get to 10 miles and I'm at this time, then I can run at this pace to the end and still finish in that time". For the next 6 miles I paid close attention to my overall time and picked it up as much as I comfortably could. By the time I was through 10 miles, I knew I could run 10:30's the rest of the way and still break my PR. This was mind blowing, as I didn't really think that I was pushing that hard, especially on the ankle. Maybe it was the race day excitement, maybe it was the hyper attention I was paying to my foot, maybe it was the absolute deluge of rain, rain, and more rain - but the race just seemed to fly by.

I slowed a bit miles 11 and 12 and turned it on again for the last mile. I finished strong, charging over the finish line. I felt as if I could go at least another 5-6 miles at the pace I was going, which was an incredibly empowering feeling.

I was bummed that I missed Jenni at the finish. In fact, that was my only gripe about the race. It was the first year that they ran the shuttle buses for the spectators, and they were completely overwhelmed by the magnitude of people looking to bum a ride. Otherwise, it was very well organized, and very well supported by the local community. There were families out cheering the runners on, even in the adverse conditions. There were drummers and folk bands setup every other mile or so, jamming out and giving everyone a little bit of a pick-me-up on an otherwise dismally gray, cold, wet morning.

I finished the race with a new PR. Shattering my old mark by almost 5 minutes.

516/1777 overall 113/248 in my age bracket 1:51:04 net time 8:29 pace

Super excited with the results, I can't wait to try it again next year. No rest for the runners though. I'm close to pulling the trigger on the Bay State Marathon, October 17th. Which means if I want to follow an 18 week training program, I'd start on Monday.

Until next time: run, run, run!

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