The Other Portland Half

Date: July 22, 2012

Distance: 13.1 miles

Time: 2:07:20

What a weekend! I crossed the fifteenth state off my list by running the Shipyard Old Port Half Marathon in Portland, Maine yesterday. I found this race by searching for weekend races near Montreal, Canada since I was sent there for a conference this past week and wanted to take the opportunity to knock out an east coast state while I was already out that far.

Good call. This turned into a wonderful weekend getaway with my husband. The conference was enjoyable and productive and concluded Thursday night. On Friday, Orlando flew out to meet me in Montreal and we spent all day Friday seeing the sights—we rented bikes and toured the downtown area, enjoyed wonderful meals, walked along the waterfront, and immersed ourselves in French-Canadian culture. The historic architecture, towering Cathedrals, and French language surrounding us wherever we went made us feel as though we were enjoying our long-wished-for European vacation.

On Saturday we took a rental car to Portland, Maine. This involved an enjoyable five-hour drive through dozens of small lakeside towns, forests, and farmlands as two-lane roads took us back over the Canadian/U.S. border and into Maine. We arrived just in time to pick up my race packet before the local running store closed and we had plenty of time to check into our hotel, explore the town a bit, and enjoy an obligatory lobster dinner.

The lobster dinner experience marked the only negative part of our whole trip. We reviewed the tourist map to find a restaurant near the water, and selected the “Portland Lobster Company.” As we approached the restaurant and saw a long line of people, we took that as a good sign that the restaurant was wildly popular. It wasn’t until later when we would discover the long line of tourists simply indicated slow service and inadequate seating.

We stood in line for about twenty minutes to place our order at the counter—two small lobster dinners that totaled a whopping sixty dollars. Oh, well, we thought, we HAVE to have lobster while in Maine, so we might as well go all out. And, sixty dollars for two lobster dinners would be expected under different circumstances—like sit down service, real silverware, and perhaps a glass of wine.

Instead, we experienced something much different. After we placed our order and paid, we were given one of those restaurant buzzer contraptions that would light up and vibrate when our order was ready. This one was in the shape of a lobster and we spend the next hour and a half with that thing, watching in anticipation for the buzzing lights to indicate we could pick up our order. And, it took almost that long for us to act like circling sharks and pounce on the next open table.

We found a table, wiped it off ourselves, and waited…and waited…and waited.

It didn’t take long for our vacation-induced happiness to give way to hungry, tired, frustration. When we were finally provided our long-awaited lobster dinners, they were presented to us on paper plates and a plastic dining tray, along with plastic forks and knives. As we did our best to crack open the lobster shells with our inadequate cutlery, water poured out from inside the lobsters all over our corn and baked potatoes. We disappointedly made the best of our meal, couldn’t believe how poorly the restaurant was managed, and decided they must rely solely on tourist business. I seriously doubt locals would frequent that place. And, because we were seated near the counter, we witnessed several other customers issuing their complaints about the poor service, the wrong orders, and the long waits. So that was my pre-race dinner disappointment. No satisfying carbo-loading for me.

The Race

start of race

Luckily, the race was a very positive experience the next morning. The race start and finish were right along the waterfront, which made for an especially beautiful course. We woke up to clear skies and sixty-degree starting temps. Perfect. Just over a thousand people ran the race, which made for small crowds and easy parking near the start.

Most of the race was on an already-established running trail that was about ten feet wide and either asphalt or packed sand and dirt. Other portions of the race were on roads and dirt trails. I really enjoyed the variety and all the great scenery. There was also lots of great crowd support the whole way—including water stations at almost every mile. A few people even set out wading pools with sponges so runners could cool off with ice water along the route.

I started off strong and an occasional glimpse of my Garmin indicated that I was running a much faster pace than normal—8:30, 9:00, and 9:30 minute miles as opposed to the 10:30s I’ve been used to. I felt so great, though, I decided to keep it up as long as I could.

After the first couple of miles I started playing mind games with myself and vacillated between thinking, “This is GREAT—I’m on my way to run my first sub-two hour race,” and “Geez, this may be the biggest mistake of my life—I’ll surely hit the wall at about mile ten at this pace.” I passed a lot of people during this race and that was mostly motivating—until those doubts would creep back in and I kept expecting that I would run out of energy at some point.

My mantra this race was, “I’m just out for an easy run,” and I repeated that over and over—imagining that I was out doing a training run–hoping that would keep me from stressing out. I focused on telling myself I was simply running a steady, relaxed pace when, in reality, I was pushing myself pretty hard.

For the first seven or eight miles I was on track to run that coveted sub-two hour race and that both excited and frightened me. I don’t know if I mentally defeated myself or I physically wasn’t capable. Starting at about mile ten I realized that I would not be finishing in under two hours but breaking my PR was in reach (2:03). I then started to slow down. I simply couldn’t maintain my pace and I let myself take a couple of much-needed walking breaks. Again, I was fighting with myself mentally. “Do I really push myself and PR—end up feeling like crap, and hurt for the next three days or do I let myself relax a bit, acknowledge that I want to enjoy this race, take in the scenery, and feel good enough to play tourist all afternoon?”

I guess I went with the latter choice and eased up a bit. I’m still really happy with my overall time, but I came away from this race realizing that I have quite a bit of work to do if I honestly want to try and break sub two hours. I first need to decide if the two hour goal is worth the effort I would need to make it happen—and even with a great deal of effort, I’m still not convinced I could do it.

I guess if sub two hours is in my future, I have some serious soul searching to do. I would need to work on my pacing during races and I need to practice pushing strong at the end during my training runs. I would also need to do a much better job of mentally preparing for the attempt.

For now, I’ll feel satisfied with this most recent time. It was a huge improvement from the times I’ve been clocking, and I attribute that to several factors—an easy, flat course at sea level, great running weather, and perhaps my most recent Pilates and Bikram cross-training efforts. Heck, I might even have Mojaves to thank.

In any case, I enjoyed a wonderful getaway with my husband and I’m now even more motivated to focus on my training efforts for my next race—bring on Idaho next month!


Splits–you can see that I reigned myself in a bit at mile 5 and then ran out of energy during miles 10-12:















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