Half Marathon Recap: Amica Iron Horse, Simsbury, CT

Sunday was my last New England half marathon for the foreseeable future, since we’re relocating to warmer climes. I picked the Amica Iron Horse Half Marathon in Simsbury, CT, and I found out a bunch of people I knew were doing it. Needless to say, I wanted to go out with a bang.

Amica Iron Horse Half Marathon - We finished! Keep it real!
Training. I kept my half marathon training runs at three runs a week, three days of strength training a week schedule. My shorter runs were interval runs and tempo runs, and my long run gradually increased to a 12-mile run two weeks before the half. Strength training was the usual at Conca Sport & Fitness. I had to do some of my runs in ridiculous heat and humidity, and my time trial runs made me worry that I’d barely eke out a PR.
Fueling. I was moderately obsessive about fuel in the weeks leading up to the race. I meal prepped, drank protein shakes, and basically tried to watch what I was eating so that I could run my best. My meals leading up to the gun time were:
  • Saturday lunch: Chicken burrito with guacamole, black beans, rice
  • Saturday snack: trail mix
  • Saturday dinner: tofu and veggie stir fry with brown rice
  • Saturday bedtime snack: vanilla pudding and banana
  • Sunday, 2 hours before the gun: PB&J on sprouted grain bread
  • Sunday, 1 hour to go: banana
Saturday I drank 75 percent of my body weight in water, and pre-race, I drank 20 ounces. I brought GU with me and fueled and hydrated along the way.
The Race. So with all the prep work, the half marathon itself? It went down nicely, or as nicely as 13.1 miles can go.
The Amica Iron Horse Half Marathon is a two-loop course. That means the hill you swore at during Mile 6 is going to punish you in Mile 11. And it did, mightily.
Two loop half marathon course
Two loops of fun.
The course itself is beautiful. You’re running next to this pretty bridge with flowers twice, and you’re going over streams and rivers and getting to see some lovely small-town New England. But the course is also a little punishing; there are some hills that will make even the most stalwart half marathon runners slow down (like the aforementioned one). The second time up that hill, my pace slowed dramatically, and my hip began protesting.
We had a really great day for it, though: the temperature at the starting time was in the low 50s, with low humidity. By the time my crew had finished, it had warmed up so that we weren’t freezing in our singlets. In between, spectators sprayed amenable runners with their garden hoses and Super Soakers.
The one thing that the Amica Iron Horse Half Marathon desperately needs is pace time corrals and a separate route entirely for the 5K. It was a free-for-all at the start line, which meant that I spent a good half-mile or so dodging people, including a group of four girls who cut in front of me and earned a few swear words for their trouble. Please, pace time corrals! I know I expended a bunch of energy on just that.
It didn’t matter, much, though. I kept up a pretty steady 8:24 pace for the first 9 miles, checking my Garmin in amazement that I was flying along like that (I had been aiming for a sub-8:40 pace). I hit Mile 10, and as sure as anything, bonked. That’s not surprising, either; 10 is my archenemy. All the fuel, the hydration, the GU in the world didn’t stop me, and I struggled. I thought about walking (especially when I met that hill again).  I got encouragement from a kind gentleman in a St. Jude’s singlet, who told me we were going to push past a guy in neon green compression socks at the end. I laughed and grimaced and wanted to cry when my pace dropped to a 9-minute mile. For two miles, I just wanted to cry because I was so sure I wouldn’t PR.
But when I passed the 12-mile marker, something inside me turned over. “Just a mile and a sprint,” I told myself. My foot hurt, my hip hurt, and I was exhausted. I couldn’t do that last tenth of a mile sprint. What I could do was propel myself over the finish line, with a chip time of 1:51:43.
It took me a minute to pick my jaw off the floor when I stopped my Garmin. That’s 19th (out of 89) in my age group, 117th out of 605 females, and 317th out of 1,029 overall.
Just me goofing off with my finisher medal
I’m pretty much still in shock, although my hip and hamstrings are reminding me differently. I have a shot at running a sub-4 marathon. And I had such a great time running my last New England half marathon, too. The company was great, and afterward we attacked the grilled cheese sandwiches and ice cream. The medals are really pretty, with the flower bridge on them, and the shirts are adorably preppy Connecticut (argyle tech shirts). As icing on the cake, I was honored to wear a Griffin’s Friends singlet provided by Team Momo.
Running for a cause, being with friends, and PR-ing – it really was a perfect half marathon, pain aside!

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