Hartford Half Marathon – Recap from the sidelines.

by Sara on October 14, 2012

Talk about early morning wake up call.  Even though the race didn’t start until 8am, Ralph and I have learned from years past that between insane port-a-potty lines and crazy traffic while trying to find parking the earlier we arrive at the start line the better.

Holy really freaking early

We were up at 5am, which was pretty rough for me having stayed up to make the drive from Philly the night before.  Since I wasn’t running, I knew I could just load up on the coffee the next day and it was ok if I felt like crap, but I wanted to make sure Ralph had enough rest.  So he pretty much slept the whole drive to my parents.  It couldn’t have worked out any better.

Two most important race day beverages for runners. Coffee and Powerade.

As Ralph got dressed and got his race things together, I made breakfast and made sure there was coffee, and Powerade.  It was starting to feel a little strange to be getting ready for a race and knowing I was not the one running.  But at the same time I really enjoyed being the support crew for once.

I made a game day decision to wear my comfy Uggs with thick socks underneath instead of sneakers.

Uggs are always a good decision.

We had a few snags getting ready.  One was realizing we had no safety pins for Ralph’s bib, so I made a mad dash around the house and thankfully found some.

Then we had more than a little trouble getting my dad’s bike (which I was borrowing) in my car.  I know, I know this was really poorly planned but at midnight I was not exactly full of energy to make sure it was going to fit.  I figured we could just throw it in the trunk or in the back seat.  That didn’t work so well, but after a bit of problem solving we got the bike MOSTLY into the car and bungee corded the trunk shut. Ideal? No. Workable? Yes.

We were off and driving by 6:15 am which was later than I had wanted but still gave us plenty of time to make the 20 minute drive to Hartford and find parking.  I didn’t drive to the race last year but I don’t remember it taking that long for us to find parking.  Thinks were rolling along pretty smoothly until we got about 2 blocks away from the parking lot.  Traffic was basically at a stand still and inside I was panicking.

Wait a minute Sara – you aren’t running this race.  What are you panicking about? You can sit in traffic for another 45 minutes and it isn’t a big deal. Also – you have a bike so you can get to the start twice as fast as if you were walking. Oh yea!

I kicked Ralph out of the car so he could spend his time more appropriately waiting in line for the bathrooms.  Come on you all know how important that is pre-race!

It took me another 20 minutes but I FINALLY found a place to park – pulled the bike out of the car, gathered up water bottles, course maps, my phone, and headed off to meet up with Ralph.

Ready to run a kick ass race

We were back on track again! It only took a few minutes to meet up with Ralph – I always forget just how much smaller the start area is compared to Philly.  So much smaller in fact that it took Ralph less than 10 minutes to cross the start.

I was even surprised at how quickly I was able to spot my bff and her boyfriend who were running the 5k and the four of us hung out for a while, chatting about running things, talking about race plans, and of course jamming out to all the sweet tunes blasting through the speakers.

<3 My Runners

And posing for some pictures.

Love this girl.

Before we knew it it was time for Ralph to meet up with Jason at the start (sadly I was not able to run over there and get any pictures of them before the race) and time to line up for the 5k start.  The national anthem played, more music blasted, and runners were getting psyched all around me.  It was hard, at times, to not be running, but I was also super psyched to be the gear carrier, official cheerleader and all around support crew.

I snapped some quick pictures of the 5k’ers starting and then I was pretty much left to hang around at the start until they came back around at mile 2.

Best. Race Photo. Ever.

The other cool thing about being on the side lines was being able to watch the elites.  I don’t know why it is so inspiring to watch runners a million times faster than you – but it is.  Before I knew it, runners were looping back around to the start passing the 2 mile mark and heading down to the finish.

Having the bike to be able to ride from point to point was super helpful, although I didn’t really consider that I would have to cross the street full of runners. I made it to the finish just in time to watch Lauren cross in 32:20 – a sweet 2 minutes and 40 seconds faster than her goal time of 35 minutes.  This girl just started running seriously about a month ago and I am so proud to have convinced one of my oldest friends to join

First time 5k finishers!

After that it was time to ride off to meet Ralph and Jason on the half marathon course.  My original plan was to meet up with them between mile 5.5 and 6 but I missed them by a matter of minutes.  I completely under estimated how hard it is to ride a bike after a month of virtually zero cardio.  I also hadn’t realized that from the finish line out to mile 6 was pretty much all uphill.  Talk about feeling the burn – oh em gee.  I wanted to die.  There may or may not have been a lot of out loud cursing to myself along the way.

By the time I got to mile 6 I had no idea if Ralph and Jason had passed or not, but as luck would have it my mom’s good friend was out cheering as well and I saw her on the side of the street.  She had seen the boys and said they were looking great and right on pace.  That made me feel better knowing they were having a great race so far.

Next in my plan was to ride over to mile 9 which was only about 4 blocks away.  I knew I could definitely make it there in time and not long after I got there I got a text update saying Ralph had crossed the halfway point at 1:08:50.  Ahead of pace!

They almost ran right past me – despite my incredibly loud cheering and jumping up and down but I knew Ralph wanted to switch his knit hat out for his running hat so I jumped in and ran right along side them. In my Uggs no less.

Ok so they were doing great, running negative splits and both were on track for some phenomenal PR’s.  I had two choices, high tail back to the finish line and try to get a good spot by the chute to watch them finish – or ride to mile 11 or 12 and wait for them to pass by once more.  I was literally planning to ride along the race route to the finish line anyways, and I knew that it would be a really great confidence booster if I could be there to cheer them on in that last mile.  So I hung out along the side of the road and yelled my little lungs out.  I was really glad I did because I got a great picture of Ralph.

Looking great with one mile to go.

Mile 12 and Ralph was killing it.  We had been talking race strategy, pace and finish time for days before hand and this would be the first race where Ralph had done some really quality speed work and could really give it 100%.  2:30 would have been a great finish time, but I knew he had it in him to do 2:15.  Seeing Ralph at mile 12 and knowing he was on pace to break 2:15 I was so excited for him.

A quick sprint on my bike to the finish line and I got a nice space right up front to watch Ralph and Jason come through the chute.  I had stepped back for one second to allow the woman next to me to get a good picture of someone she knew finishing, I heard her say “oh here they come” and so I stepped back, and the next thing I knew I was getting a text alert saying “Ralph has crossed the finish line in 2:12:53”.  At first I was disappointed that I had missed him but then the number registered in my head – and I was just so excited to find him and offer him MEGA congratulations.

Someone got a new half marathon PR – 2:12:53

I told him he better come up with some new lofty goals for the future because he just crushed every goal he had ever thought he was capable of.

The day absolutely flew by and I couldn’t believe everything was over.  Three runners, three amazing PR’s.  One of my favorite things about the Hartford Marathon and Half is the beer tent they have at the finish line.  Everyone’s race bib comes with a beer ticket so even though I didn’t run I made sure to bring my bib for a free drink.  Hey bike riding and cheering is hard work too!

The best way to re-hydrate. In the beer tent.

Ralph and I relaxed in the sun, drank a few beers and enjoyed a Tastykake pumpkin pie.

Yes we brought Tastykake pumpkin pies back to eat post race. Don’t judge.

The only thing I wanted to do when we got home was take a nap.  As luck would have it my parents and sister were actually out of town for the weekend so we pretty much had their house to ourselves.  This was how they left the living room which was pretty much where we remained camped out for the rest of the weekend.

Thank you little sister for not cleaning up your slumber party from the night before.

After an ice bath, a shower, and a much needed nap we decided to be normal people and put on real clothes to head out and get some dinner.

Looks like Jaws is having Ralph’s medal for a snack. Sharks love medals.

I woke up with a MAJOR headache, and realized in all the craziness of the day I had never had any coffee.  Major fail Sara, MAJOR fail.  I quickly downed some iced java and was back to normal within a matter of an hour.  It is crazy the power that caffeine has over us don’t you think?

Must. Have. Caffeine.

We were not feeling fancy enough to actually go to a restaurant, take out was much more our style.  Ralph requested chinese food and I was all to happy to oblige.

Post race Chinese food dinner. NOMS.

I laughed when I opened my fortune.

Pretty ironic considering the day I had.

It was a pretty awesome day watching people who you’ve helped train for months achieve their goals.  Next year I hope to be back and running but I’m glad that if I could’t participate that I could be one hell of a support crew.  The race seemed to be really well organized, although my one complaint was I couldn’t find the free bike check this year like they did last year (instead of having to lock my bike somewhere).

Super proud of everyone who ran their heart out.

Have you ever had to watch a race you were planning on running?  Any good advice for maximizing how many times you can see runners along the race course?

xx Sara

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