Bread for Schools Half Marathon: Race Report

>> Friday, October 15, 2010

As I mentioned in my weekend recap post, I ran the Bread for Schools Half Marathon in Fabius, NY, last Sunday. I chose to run it not as a race, but instead as a total moral booster. I love the half marathon distance. LOVE it. So, after my D(id) N(ot) F(inish) result at the Wineglass Marathon on 10/3, I started hunting around for another event. Thankfully, I found the Bread Run, which was celebrating its 2nd year.

I knew going into it that the race was small. There would be only around 130 runners. I typically run larger races (mostly because I enjoy the crowd, but there's also a ton of perks to running large events, including more water stops, support, and swag). I figured the race would be much like my favorite hometown 10K. Small. A couple water stops. A few kindhearted volunteers. A little awards ceremony.

No biggie. Just small town fun.

My half marathon PR is currently 1:46:31 (though, that was achieved at the Lake Placid Half Marathon in June -- let's just say, the course wasn't flat).

Neither was this course. There were some notable inclines . . .

I expected to finish the Bread Run in under 2:00:00, but didn't have a specific goal in mind. I knew little about the elevation (I just found the chart today!). I had just "raced" 17 miles in the marathon the week before (followed by a much-needed 5-miler the day after, which left my muscles sore and tired because I never run the day after my long runs). I didn't wear a watch during the race either . . . my main goal? Cross the finish line with a smile.

OK. Cross the finish line, period.

When my friend Dani (who finished the Wineglass the previous weekend -- Go, Dani!!!) and I arrived at the registration area, we were greeted by balloons, cute food stations, and tons of race volunteers. The two older women at the half marathon registration table (there was also a 5K) didn't really know how far a half really is. They Ooooo'ed and Aahhhh'ed when we told them about it. One asked about "hitting the wall" . . . and we told her that's mainly during the full marathon. She said something about not understanding why anyone would want to run that far. And we all chuckled a bit.

Anyway, the start was late (10:30 AM). Maybe the latest start I've ever had. It was much appreciated, though. Again, this race was mostly for fun. It gave my time to run a quick warm-up mile on the track (I love running short distances on tracks!). Stretch. Chat with fellow racers (we met yet another cool guy who ran Wineglass and is in training for a Half Ironman). Then Joanne, one of the race officials, stopped by our table. Joanne is AWESOME. Here's one benefit of a small race: She wanted to know more about us so when we crossed the finish line, the announcers could say something. Something personal. Not just our name. We told her how many races we have run in the past and some other info. She also offered us Gels. A nice gesture, but I declined. I just can't stomach them.

Anyway, skip ahead to the race start. The weather -- just like at Wineglass -- was absolutely gorgeous. It was maybe in the low 50s. Crisp, but not uncomfortable. Impossibly sunny, so I was happy I wore my hat. And the fall colors were amazing. I think it was JUST past peek leaf time. And the entire run was through the countryside. From the very first mile, I knew the race would be memorable for that reason.

At mile one, though, I realized I had over-dressed. I mean, the temps were like below freezing when we drove up (the frost was so thick, it looked like snow!), so I wore a long sleeve shirt over a sleeveless. I passed the 1-mile mark (which had a timer, reading right around 7:45). Between miles 1 and 2, I spent a lot of energy unpinning my bib number from my shirt and pinning it onto my sleeveless underneath (while poking myself a few times -- ouch!). Wow, that was hard work. But I didn't care. I wasn't racing. I just wanted to be as comfortable as possible.

The next couple miles breezed by. We were totally out in the mountains. Tons of trees. Farmland. Fresh air. Not-so fresh air (cows!!!). Animals like horses and sheep. I loved it. Then, I came upon the first hill around mile 5, I think. Yikes. After that, there was yet another hill before the 10K mark. Then a downhill. Then some flat. Then another hill. I didn't consider that there would be ANY hills, so I was a bit surprised. Also at this point, and as is typical of my racing style, I started passing people. I'm strong on hills. Even steep-ish ones. So, though many had passed me in the first 5K, I gained back my ground pretty quickly.

I'm skipping over a lot of detail here. Mostly because I didn't wear a watch. I was totally absorbed in the experience. Soaking in the beautiful vistas. Concentrating on how much I enjoyed the run. Mile by mile, I felt strong. Stronger, even. I kept my pace steady, but also began speeding up around the 15K mark. I remember I finished 15K in around 1:18:00. A volunteer was there reading off the time as we passed. there were so many wonderful volunteers along the way. All very encouraging. All on their game. Water/Gatorade stops were abundant: Mile 2, 4, 6, 9, 11, and 12.

AND the entire race was 100% closed to traffic. Not only that. If I had been injured -- unlike at Wineglass -- people were riding around in golf carts (well, something similar to a golf cart) to help out, if necessary. That's incredibly important!

It seemed like the whole town (the population of Fabius is around 340 people!) had come out to support us. Anyway, after the 15K mark, I decided to pick up my speed. I felt strong. Again, I wasn't racing, but wanted to see what those legs could do. I gained on several more runners. I ran alone a lot of the time, so my thoughts were totally internal. Without a watch, I didn't worry about my specific finish time, though I was curious how well I'd do. The end of the race was BRUTAL. A major hill at mile 12. And then yet ANOTHER steep incline a half mile later. I remember joking with a volunteer who was standing by a sign for a street named "Hill Road" . . . I told him that it was the "most literal sign, EVER." And he laughed. It helped me power my way up and pass a couple more runners.

The end of the race was flat. I really let myself unleash the fury with only half a mile left to go. I could hear people cheering. I could see the finish. And I could finally see my time! I clocked in at 1:47:35. My chip time was 1:47:31. Only one minute slower than my PR. Not too shabby because . . . I felt incredible. I felt I could keep going for at least another couple miles. I didn't finish out of breath. I had achieved my goal of finishing the race with a smile on my face. Crossing a finish line. To be honest, I almost started crying because it felt SO GOOD to FINISH after my horrible performance the week before.

I immediately saw Joanne and told her how the Bread Run was my favorite race EVER. And it honestly was. There are definitely advantages and disadvantages to smaller races. However, the Bread Run people had done their homework. They told me that they have taken the event very seriously.

It most definitely showed!

They told me they had studied what was done at other races and tried to take the best from each and incorporate it into their run. They want to grow the event in future years, and I'm planning to participate as often as I can.

Dani crossed the finish line not too long after I did. She's a rock star. Total miles raced for her that week? Nearly 40! She has a lot to be proud of, including finishing 3rd in her age group. I did pretty well, too. I finished as the 12th woman in the race. 29th overall. This meant I won a certificate and even $100. Yeah, that's right. I won prize money. Like I'm a big deal or something. Even Stephen's a little jealous over that one. He's never won money in a race.

Looking pretty tired, but happy here. It was a really cool awards ceremony. w00t!

Anyway, if you live in upstate NY, I highly recommend checking out the Bread Run next year. It's just so beautiful. Well organized. The people are so kind and supportive. It's a wonderful way to spend a fall day. Oh, yeah. And did I mention it's all for a good cause? Part of your race entry goes toward benefiting schools locally and nation-wide.

Things I took away from this race that I'll apply to my run in Philly and beyond.
  1. I will not wear a watch. I spend far too much time when I DO wear a watch critiquing and worrying about my performance. I don't need to know up-to-the-second how I'm doing from mile one. I makes me go too fast. I'm the kind of racer who needs to start out slower and then gain later on in the race. No watch. CHECK.
  2. I will take in my surroundings. This goes along with not wearing a watch. I want to enjoy the event versus being so terribly focused on my finish time. Especially with the marathon, I need this way of thinking. Last year at Philly, well, I hardly remember much from the course. I know we ran by lots of people and landmarks, but I was too focused. Usually if I don't stress, I'll be fine. I'll finish. And I'll take away far more than a PR. It's the whole experience I'm after. Not a time.
  3. I will wear less. I tend to over-dress. Even though it will be cold next month, I know I'll be tempted to wear too many layers. Rather than be uncomfortable, I'll indeed bring a long-sleeve shirt . . . but one that I'll put on OVER my race number to avoid having to do a switch-a-roo mid-race.
  4. I will run more with friends. I loved having Dani there. I want to do more races with friends versus just going with Stephen. You see that Stephen didn't run this race -- he was tutoring that afternoon. I had a blast going to the event and cheering on a friend. Stephen's sheer speed -- just knowing that he's done SO far ahead of me -- is discouraging. Sometime I'd like to actually run a race with someone (or more than one person) the whole time. I've never done that. It just contributes more to the fun of the whole event.
  5. I will race more half marathons. Simply because: I love half marathons. This race solidified that love. I felt strong and confident throughout the entire event. I still love my long training runs (in fact, I have my 4th 20-miler this fall on Sunday! Yikes!), but for racing, I'd rather get my speed up than try to dazzle myself with distance all the time. I see myself in the future as a one-marathon-a-year kind of gal. Of course, if I ever qualify for Boston, I'll make an exception :)
What's your favorite race distance? Do you like to go more for distance or speed? Or if you haven't raced before -- what are some of your worries about racing? Just leave a comment or email us at neverhomemaker [at] gmail [dot] com.

What many of you readers have made me remember is that running isn't about a specific event or day. It's about EVERYTHING that goes into that event. The hours and hours of preparation. The miles logged in the rain, sleet, and snow. The injuries or the times you've felt fantastic. The emotions. Even with the pain and failures, I love everything about being a runner.

And I hope to be a runner for life. Whatever it takes!

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