I had been hemming and hawing for a few weeks as to whether or not I’d run the Colchester Half Marathon. I knew it would fall in line with my training plan in terms of a long run and during a “down week”, but I was also hesitant to go for a race while I was weaning off of Paxil. I hadn’t been feeling great, so committing to something seemed like a bad idea. But, the withdrawal symptoms didn’t last nearly as long as I had feared they might and I was off of it completely with no repercussions just in time. And I needed the long run. And I needed the hill work. And I needed to do better than last year’s attempt.
So, in typical Mazy-fashion, I registered about 20 minutes before the gun and trotted up to the starting line. There were some familiar (read intimidating) faces as well as the general sea of runners bouncing, stretching, striding out before the event. Colchester may be a small Connecticut town, but this race draws a fairly sizable crowd. This year’s race boasted 691 registrants, with 614 finishers. That’s not too shabby! Now, part of the challenge of the Colchester Half Marathon is the fact that it takes place on the last Saturday of February. That typically means that there is ice, slush, yuck, and sub-freezing temperatures. But…it is New England, which means you can’t predict anything! We had a surprisingly warm day on Saturday with 60 degrees at the start of the race and nearly 70 degrees by noon. Thankfully the rain held off. I must say, the course was considerably easier to navigate without the ice and snow.
The race starts at Bacon Academy High School with just a tease of an up hill, enough to give you a little bit of confidence. But, for every strenuous up hill there is an equally painful down hill. Most are excited for down hills or “free energy”, but I feel like I pay dearly for them. They mess with my pace, they mess with my head, and they destroy my quads. I would almost always rather go up than down in a race!
Most of Colchester’s race is paved, but there are about three miles worth of hill that are on dirt roads. These miles can be tricky, especially in the snow, since they aren’t plowed well, have a lot of divets, tire treads, and lose stones. There are quite a few intersections to get through, but the support staff is excellent so there is a minimal risk of dealing with traffic. My experience was pleasant with the few cars I did encounter giving the runners a wide berth while traveling at extremely reduced speeds. There is also ample signage alerting drivers of the race, mile markers, and upcoming turns. You really can’t get lost!
Colchester has a gorgeous, scenic course. Through woods, by farms — over hill and dale. This half marathon really does show off the beautiful side of rural Connecticut. Residents come out of their homes to cheer on the athletes and one family had a candy booth set up, handing out Starbursts and Twizzlers to those that needed a sugary pick-me-up. I also got the privileged to high-five a toddler sized Elsa as I dashed along.
I brought a packet of maple syrup with me in my shorts’ pocket, but didn’t feel the need to use it on the race course since there were three aid stations with water and Gatorade. There were also crates of sliced oranges and bananas at the finish line. The final two miles of the race are up hill and feels like one of the slowest, longest, most torturous climbs to any finish line. However, streams of people run along the side cheering everyone along. And, the race does eventually come to an end! The final right turn takes you back into the high school parking lot and through the finish line. No matter what your time is, you feel better for having run this race. You know that you are a bad-ass just because you did it.
Once through the shoot I met up with my family, gasping and recoiling at the effort I just put forth. “Why can’t I like knitting or board games or some other less stressful activity?” I asked my husband as he helped me get into my sweats. We made our way across the school parking lot and headed for the building to find the facilities. Some wonderful folks from Phoenix Therapeutic Massage were set up in the gymnasium offering massages and stretching out the finishers. The cafeteria was busting with a wonderful after party. A buffet line snaked around the perimeter offering corn chowder, chili, ziti, pizza, brownies, and salads.
This was my second year running the Colchester Half Marathon and I did do what I set out to do, though, I’m not completely impressed with my run. I did beat my previous year’s time by six minutes, which was my number one goal. I did break an hour and forty, which was my second goal. While I had a third goal of placing in the top ten, I was far less concerned with placement than time. I wanted to maintain a 7:35-7:45 pace, and I sort of achieved that for most of the race. I did fall into the course’s trap and went out way too fast before settling in. I was much too cocky and took the first couple of hills much too hard. But, all in all it was a good effort and I am glad I did it.
I am aware that I need to spend more time on pacing — and getting less excited at the beginning — and probably focus on hill work a bit more. I also need to focus on pulling through when I’m fatigued. But, I can’t get too hard on myself since the stats for this race are pretty decent.
Overall time: 1:39.33 (average 7:37 pace)
Female Pace: 18/309
30-39F Div Place: 10/277