You know a race is going to kick your butt when it is humorously called "moderately challenging."
The Great Derry Track Club (New Hampshire) has put on the Boston Prep 16-Miler for the past 20 years.
My friend and Tedy's Team teammate Page brought the race up to me late in 2014 as a great "confidence boosting run" in prep for Boston.
Read as: It is wicked hilly. You will hate me while it is happening, but will feel better about yourself and Heartbreak Hill afterwards.
Spoiler Alert: She was 100% right!
Since I am a race pusher ;) I convinced my friend Lori to also sign up for the race. Lori is running her first Boston Marathon so I thought this would be a great race for her too. It would be her longest distance to date. Might as well go big, right? :P
I made sure to get the knees ready for a tough run with my trusty KT Tape!
Page, Lori and I took the drive from Boston to Derry, NH to tackle the hills. It was great to have some built-in support.
We easily parked at a local school and took the quick 2-minute walk to race HQ - aka West Running Brook Middle School.
The gym was a buzz with excitement, while my stomach was a buzz with nerves.
Now I know that I can stop running and walk at any point in a race, but for some reason I was freakin' out on this particular morning. I think I had built the challenge up in my head that I was psyching myself out.
I tried to distract myself by chatting with Lynn the race director and meeting some new friends. Okay "meeting new friends" isn't the right term. I basically went over and talked to two people that I had recognized from a handful of previous races I had done in the NH/Maine area over the last few months. Not sure where my confidence came from to go introduce myself, but I had to do it. I had seen them so many times I felt like I knew them. Sooo thanks Beth for at least not calling me a creeper to my face. ;)
We opted to toss our sweet swag - long-sleeved tech t-shirt and fleece neck warmer - in the car before heading to the Start. The Start was actually around the corner from the school on Humphrey Street. You could totally tell the folks that drove up from Boston since we all oohhed and ahhhed over the horse next to the Start. Oh city folk.
The field had 350 runners, which seemed to be smaller than year's past, but we did have poor weather that weekend so a lower turnout was expected.
Lori, Page and I were as ready as we could be for the run. There was a group of runners near us proclaiming loudly about how charity runners don't believe in Boston. As three charity runners, we scowled at him, but didn't let him steal our thunder.
The race had a small horn to signify the Start and we were off. We wished Lori a good run and Page and I headed off. I love finding someone that I can easily run with. Page is exactly that way. We fall into an easy rhythm and don't have to worry about pace. Especially on this day. It wasn't a race, but a really hilly training run. ;)
If you are going to have a tough training run, it's awesome when it is scenic... and New Hampshire does NOT disappoint.
Mile 1: 9:47 Mile 2: 8:32
While enjoying a few rolling hills in New Hampshire, we ran into our friend Julia!
She is prepping for the LA Marathon, which goes down March 15.
Mile 3: 8:35 Mile 4: 8:32
The roads were open to the traffic and with a recent snowfall the roads were tight. I can tell you there were quite a few cars taking the turns waaayyy too fast for the conditions and the amount of runners on the road. You would think with this being the 20th time this race was put on that the residents would be used to it. I guess not everyone was.
At least the hills were always visible so you could mentally prep for the next while coming off the current one. ;)
As much as I mention how almost every race in New England is compiled of "rolling hills," they create some glorious views.
Mile 5: 9:06 Mile 6: 8:39
I was really encouraged with how strong I was feeling on the run. The hills weren't putting up as much of a fight as I expected. Well I was being cautious since the rumor was the worst hill was near the end.
Prior to the race, my goal was to not walk up any of the hills. I didn't care how slow I jogged/ran up the hill I wanted to keep running/jogging. It was a much-needed pact with myself since many folks around us started walking. When I see others walking there is something in my brain saying that it's okay for me to do that too - even if I don't want to or feel amazing.
So this picture captures how awesome I felt after each hill was conquered. Grrrrr-eat!!
Mile 7: 9:48 Mile 8: 8:42
After we reached the halfway mark, I wanted to tell myself it was all downhill from there... but I'd be lying to myself. Oh I crack me up. :P
I couldn't believe we were halfway through the race already. It hadn't felt like 8 miles had come and gone. That is a good thing, right? It must mean all this training is paying off.
Mile 9: 8:46
Just after the Mile 9 water stop, we took a second to stretch, re-tie the shoes and have snack break (GU for Page and KIND bar for me). It was a nice little break before the rougher part of the course started.
Mile 10: 10:26
During the run, we started chatting with a local woman, who kindly let me know the worst inclines would be during Miles 10 and 12-13. Oh joy! I kind of liked living in the world of the unknowing and just waiting to see when the worst would hit.
But I was mentally prepped.
Page opted to listen to music during this stretch as her way to "get pumped." I opted to
quietly curse while plugging along. I thought of good things like beer and my amazing Stroke Heroes to try and make the hill a little less daunting.
In reality? It was tough. I kept repeating: "Just F&*#kin' Move Forward." I am not one to wax poetically during a run so I kept it simple. :P
Plus the sun was shining and I was healthy. I really couldn't complain.
Mile 11: 8:55
Mile 12: 10:36 Mile 13: 10:25
Hellz yeah!! I did it! I was wicked proud of myself for tackling and owning Warner Hill Road. I may or may not have done a fist pump when I finally reached the top. :)
My left hamstring was sore, but no sorer than any other run I have done since injuring it in May. I do believe the strength training is finally working it's magic.
I'm not going to lie when we hit the half marathon mark I wanted to be done. Haha. I was ready to be in post-race mode. But Page and I agreed it was a good chance to get in a nice 3-mile recovery run. ;)
Page was having some side stitch and hamstring issues of her own so we opted for a little run/walk during the next 2 miles to stretch it out. She told me to go ahead. Ummm gurl I wasn't winning the race NOR would I leave her after rocking 14 miles together. I don't play that way. She was stuck with me.
Mile 14: 9:07 Mile 15: 9:27
I started talking about my possible Run Disney Princess weekend costumes to try and distract her from the pain. And you know what? It worked for almost 3/4 of a mile before she realized I was distracting her. Go me!
She was ready to finish strong and we did. We hustled our way up that final incline to the Finish!
Mile 16: 8:39
There wasn't a huge crowd at the Finish, but the announcer did announce our names and where we were from when we crossed. Yay! I liked the personal touch.
The official time would be slower than my Garmin as the race was a GUN time not a Chip time.
In my mind I am taking the Garmin time as official since it did take us at least 30+ seconds to actually cross the Start line.
Once over the Finish Line, we shot right in to the School cafeteria to get food. The race offered Domino's Pizza, sandwich wraps, Dunkin Donuts munchkins, bananas, chili and soup. Lots of food. Sadly no beer, but I didn't expect it in a middle school. The only thing that looked mildly appealing was the pizza and we both went for that before taking some laps around the cafeteria to keep the legs moving.
We decided to walk to the car to get Lori's clothes so she could change before the ride back. Man the little incline back from the parking lot felt a lot worse post-run. :P
Lori did an awesome job coming in right around 2 hours and 51 minutes. I was so proud of her.
We watched a little of the awards ceremony before making our way back home to get a celebratory beer at Slumbrew! :)
Overall, the race had a great fun local feel and it was cool to chat with a bunch of other runners training for the same race. Many around us were also charity runners so it was great swapping fundraising ideas and tips.
I was also happy to hear race proceeds benefited the Greater Derry Track Club Kids Summer Fun Run Program.
I do wish the roads were a little more closed or additional precautions were taken to ensure runner safety. I know it is par for the course in smaller local races, but there were some occasions where the cars were a little too close for comfort. Thankfully cops and volunteers were stationed at major intersections and turns.
I was surprised to not see any EMTs on bikes. Now I don't know if they were in any of the cars passing us or not, but I didn't notice any medical personnel along the course.
There were four water stops and 2 GU spots during the 16-mile course, which felt like enough on that day.
So the big question is: would I recommend this race to someone else running Boston? AB-so-lutely!! It really was the confidence booster that Page claimed it would be. So yes if you are ever training for Boston, I highly recommend signing up for this run AND supporting a local running club. Just be sure to bring your phone with you!!