Covered Bridges Half Marathon
Sometimes it's just not a good day for racing
The Covered Bridges Half Marathon (CBHM) is a famous race around here. It attracts many folks from the area and from New York and Boston for its scenic route past idyllic Vermontyness, and for its approachability as a “flat” (or even “downhill”) profile. Lately, I’ve been more interested in the less approachable stuff – the ultramarathons on single track trails up and down mountains – but I decided to get online to sign up for CBHM at just the right moment many months ago to check out the hype. Plus, I (mistakenly) figured that I’d be automatically in shape for this race because of my training for the Ice Age 50 mile race just three weeks prior, and it would be a good chance to run with my husband, Cody, and a bunch of our runner friends.
I woke up at the early hour of 4:30 on Sunday morning – race day. Instead of feeling amped and nervous like I usually do before a race, I was feeling exhausted and sniffly. The night before, I started experiencing allergy/cold symptoms after a day spent doing lawn work at our new house, and the symptoms had only gotten worse in the wee morning hours before the race. This is the first race I’ve had to ask myself: “do I really want to do this today?” “It’s only 13 miles,” I told myself, feeling confident from my 50 mile success. Sure, I hadn’t done any CBHM-specific training, and had only run twice between the two, and sure, my knees had complained about even this small distance, but I could handle a half marathon…
I pulled on my running clothes, made some hot water with lemon juice to help my cold situation, and drove Cody and I to Quechee. We took the shuttle bus to Suicide Six (the very same place I toed the line for Runamuck 50k just a few months ago). Cody said aloud what I was thinking – we have to run all this way back? The long shuttle ride makes the distance we’ll have to cover seem way longer than anticipated.
We picked up our bibs, ate some bagels and bananas, used the porta potties (there were a tremendous amount), and gradually found our friends. Finally around 8, everyone made their way to the starting line on Stage Rd, and after 15 minutes of standing around in a tightly packed crowd around the 1:45 pacer, we were off!
Running down Stage Rd, I started to feel the effects of my cold on running. I felt like I was unable to breath normally, and my heart rate seemed fast for the speed I was going (8:15/mile) down a flat paved road. I got passed left and right during the first three miles. By the time I made it past Billings Farm and into Woodstock, I was crossing the one and only covered bridge at about a 9:30 min/mile pace. I could hardly keep up with the guy running in fuzzy chicken suit. I was also experiencing pain in my left knee, leftover from the Ice Age 50, and my ankles weren’t loving the slight curve of the road, being used to trails and track. I didn’t want to further upset my body, so I made a deal with myself to just enjoy the course as an easy training run and not to worry as my pace steadily dropped.
And there was a lot to appreciate at CBHM. Since this race runs through towns, there were so many people out in their yards and front porches, and along the road cheering us on. Coming over the covered bridge in Woodstock, I felt like I was part of a parade with all the police and spectators, cameras aimed for the perfect shot of the race’s namesake. Every mile or so there was live music, my favorite of which was the jazz band on the front porch near the Quechee Club. And that doesn’t even mention all the volunteers dotting the course directing runners or handing out water and gatorade.
The 6 mile section along the Ottauquechee river was beautiful, especially the parts in the shade. By now, the sun was beating down pretty hot so I had to fight the urge to quit the race and just go for a swim. I walked up the “big” hill at mile 8 (it wasn’t really that big), happily taking ice volunteers were handing out and dripping the cold melting water on myself as I made my way to the top. I would have liked to gain speed on the downhills, but my knee was preventing me from going much faster than my leisurely pace.
From mile 9 I was counting down the miles. 5, 4, 3… spectators were encouraging us as we closed in on the finish. I passed Simon Pearce glass blowing studio with only 1 mile left to go. Finally, I could hear the music and see the finish line a quarter of a mile away, and so I started sprinting. I made my first and only “kills” with the finish line in sight as I flew forward, eyes on the prize (being able to just sit and be a sick person and not be running this race anymore).
I finished with a time of 2:13. This was my sixth half, and this was my second worst time. I had expected this race to be easy, but it wasn’t. Maybe it was worse because I had expectations that I could easily run 13 miles, having trained to run 50, but they’re both super hard and very different things. I won’t dwell on my performance – it was a beautiful day, and I ran a half marathon despite being sick enough to spend the next day watching Netflix on the couch instead of at work. In the end we all run our own races, and making the choice to get out and keep running, no matter how slowly, is much better than staying home.
Vermont: Pomfret, Woodstock, Hartford and Quechee
Half marathon (13.1 miles), 361' elevation gain
1221/1895, 106/150 (F25-29)
Paved and dirt road
2:13:17 (Start: 8:15am)
Warm (high 60s) and sunny