Manchester, New Hampshire
Location: Manchester, New Hampshire
Half: Manchester Half Marathon
Date: November 10th, 2019
Finish Time: 1:28:50
Who’d I travel with? Mom
Pre-run meal? Lemon Chicken Pasta (THANKS MOM!)
THAT TIME I FREAKING CRUSHED MY PR AND FINALLY GOT SUB 7 MILES!!!!!!!
(Also, the time I created the longest blog title ever).
So. Evidently mid-November is even colder in New Hampshire than it is in Ohio… something that admittedly shouldn’t have required first-hand experience to realize. HOWEVER. What I also didn’t yet know, was that, despite the crisp temperatures, I WAS ABOUT TO FREAKING CRUSH THIS RACE.
I flew into Manchester around noon on Saturday and was greeted by my mom – who had driven 5 hours from New York to meet me for the weekend. The adventure began immediately once we were reunited – starting with some lunch and wine. I’ve tried my best throughout this journey to make slight improvements to one aspect or another of each race – whether that be through my training routine, my morning-of-the-race rituals, or my pre-race day diet… clearly nutrition wasn’t going to be the improvement of choice this time. I decided on a delicious ham and cheese egg soufflé, some type of fried cheese appetizer, and consumed my fair share, and then some, of our bottle of Cab.
After lunch, we still had some time to kill before checking into our air b&b for the weekend, so we ventured off to watch the newly released Joker movie. It wasn’t a huge theater – just a quaint local spot with games, a bar, kitchen, and – get this – theaters filled with office chairs and tables. As we watched our movie I couldn’t help but order a chocolate chip cookie dessert with ice cream… Again, not the best pre-race fuel choices happening here.
Once the movie was over, we were finally ready to check into our home for the weekend – a modern little apartment right off the lake in Windham, New Hampshire (just a quick 20-30 minutes from the city). We settled in and immediately got to work cooking dinner before crashing for an early start the next day. My mom made me my absolute favorite food – lemon caper chicken pasta… Ok. I know. So far, all I have done is eat. A lot. But we’re almost to the good stuff.
I laid in bed the next morning for as long as I possibly could, completely concerned about the freezing cold temperatures I was about to be exposed. It would be just 34 degrees at the beginning of the race – WHY DID I CHOOSE NEW HAMPSHIRE IN NOVEMBER AGAIN??? I layered up – running pants, long sleeve, sweatshirt, gloves, headband. There’s a pretty predictable morning-of-the-race-ritual when it’s just my mom and I traveling together – I sleep in as late as I possibly can while she showers and gets ready, I wake up and race around our place to get ready as fast as I can, and then we head out with plenty of time to spare so my mom can find somewhere to get some coffee before the race starts.
Our first caffeine attempt was a local drive-thru cafe approximately three minutes from our air b&b – where they accidentally gave my mom the wrong order – this obviously wasn’t going to work for a coffee-deprived-Darla. We still had plenty of time left, so we drove around the block near the race to look for a better place to stop. We finally found a small corner-coffee-shop and quickly shuffled inside – you know, since I still needed to find somewhere to take my pre-race-poop & all. So. We walked in and found ourselves face-to-face with 5 middle-aged men (each in complete shock at the fact that we were there) not to mention, even more shocked that we actually wanted to order coffee. I shit you not. This place had one single Mr. Coffee coffee maker, no cream or sugar packets to be seen, and all of the tables and chairs had been pushed to the back and stacked up – except the ones already occupied by these five men. They just sat there. Watching soccer. Staring at us….Now. I’m still not sure what exactly to make of this situation, but what I can assume is that this coffee shop was… uh… not actually a coffee shop at all – but more likely a cover for who knows what. And with that, our second coffee attempt was also turning out to be quite the failure. We finally found the perfect cup of coffee approximately .1 miles from the starting line of the race. We ordered some coffees (I admittedly just like to hold a coffee before my races just for the smell and the warmth) and kept ourselves warm in there until approximately 4 minutes before race time – when Darla basically had to shove me out the door to get going.
The winter wind whipped against my face as we walked (well light-jogged since we were a little late) to the corrals. I was starting to get the uneasy anxious feeling that I get every single time in the pit of my stomach. No matter how many races I run, that feeling will always be there to meet me at the starting line. I found the 1:30 pacer and the 1:35 pacer and took my place between them in the mass of people – deciding that I was going to try and go for approximately 1:32 finish time (my current personal best). My feet were getting numb as I bounced from foot to foot waiting for the National Anthem to finish. 3, 2, 1 AND WE WERE OFF. It was so cold out that I decided not to bring my phone with me (it dies pretty fast in the cold) – I had never run without my phone – since I usually use it to track my distance/pace. But even without my typical tracking methods, I quickly found my way to the front of a group of 20-something-year-old-guys who were all wearing those teeny-tiny running shorts (you know, the ones that symbolize that they are serious runners). My watch buzzed to signify that I had finished the first mile, but I couldn’t see my pace since I was wearing a long sleeve, a sweatshirt, and gloves. But I figured I had to be going at a pretty good pace if I was keeping up with these boys.
More miles passed. I was feeling pretty good as my body started to warm up and my blood started circulating to my hands and feet. I quickly ditched the gloves and headband, but still hadn’t looked at my watch to reveal my pace or overall time – a decision I continued to make mile after mile. It was now mile 7, and I had passed most of the boys in the herd around me. As I ran around a sharp corner a lady standing there shouted, “YOU GOT HER – YOU’RE JUST BEHIND THE GIRL IN SECOND.”What? I could see two women in the distance ahead of me, but I hadn’t known that these were the first and second place girls until this moment. With this, I had a new goal in mind for the remainder of the race: I was going to catch that second place girl. Mile 8 turned into mile 9 as we embarked onto a dirt path that reminded me of my favorite trail runs. I had a renewed sense of positivity as my feet pounded the familiar dirt and rocks and the winding path twisted and turned along the river surrounded by trees. She was so close now – just a few feet in front of me. I could pass her, but I risked her passing me back up if I slowed down even the slightest in the final portion of the race. I could stay behind her and pull a sneak-attack near the end… but that route could allow the girl behind us in fourth to catch both of us. I had to do it. I quickly picked up my pace and soared past her, keeping it up until I could no longer see her behind me. Now it was just me, one lone short-shorts man, and the girl in front of me – the first place women.
I wanted to catch her so bad. I mean, she had a freaking biker following her – so sick. She was just one or two hundred feet in front of me as we started the last mile. My chest sharply tightened as my breathing became a bit irregular. I slowed myself down a bit to make sure I didn’t start hyperventilating and completely screw all of this up. I had to keep going. I HAD to keep going. So I did. I pushed and pushed until the finish line was in sight. I wasn’t going to be able to catch her, there wasn’t enough space between us and the finish line. BUT. I could finish at MY pace and run MY race as best as I could. I sprinted through the crowd and nearly lost my breath as the clock became visible: 1:28…. NO FUCKING WAY. My cheeks rose involuntarily into a huge smile as my feet pounded the finish line. As they placed the medal around my head, my mom, tears already streaming down her face, grabbed me and immediately asked (in her most positive way) WHAT JUST HAPPENED?! We were both in complete shock as the race director pulled me over to the podium to take my second place spot on the stand. 1:28. I had beaten my personal best by 4 minutes. I had gotten a sub-7 minute pace (6:50 to be exact). I had won second place female in this big race. I was absolutely elated.
After the race we had our pretty typical post-race festivities planned. We went back to the air b&b. I drank approximately 3 mimosas in the shower. We got ready. Went out for some drinks and food. Went to an escape room and FREAKING GOT OUT. GUYS. I’VE NEVER GOTTEN OUT OF AN ESCAPE ROOM (this day was turning out to be fucking great). Then drank and watched the Packer’s game until late in the night. We celebrated the race, our lives, our time together, and laughed together until we finally made our way back to our place. While the post-race celebrations are always great, the race itself was honestly the biggest part of this trip. I had done what I truly never imagined I could do – I had broken the 7 minute mile barrier in both my mind and body. I had beat my overall finish time – no, I had fucking demolished it. I had pushed my hardest, done my best, and gotten the rewards of the hard work that I had put into it.
But. While I would love to end on some positive note about the race and the meaning of hard work. I have to add this end note – as I laid on the couch exhausted from the race, a small shadow darted across the floor. A FUCKING MOUSE. Yep. I spent the last hour of my perfect race day trapping a small mouse in our air b&b under a trash can and feeding it our left-over pizza. New Hampshire …. you were just full of surprises, weren’t you?