ING Hartford Marathon Recap

Yesterday morning Amy and I woke up bright and early ready to run our hearts out in each of our respective races, the half marathon and marathon. We both slept wonderfully the night prior and literally jumped out of bed when our alarms went off. IMG_5076 We enjoyed a cup of coffee, toast with peanut butter and banana, and some water before leaving for the race. We drove Amy’s rental car downtown and were elated to find easy parking within 5 minutes of the start. There were a number of parking decks in downtown Hartford, open yesterday morning, within walking distance of the race start. We were especially surprised to find that parking was only $5, even on race day! IMG_5080 IMG_5078By 7:10 we were in the VIP area, thanks to Danielle and the race’s generosity. They allowed me, Amy, and a few of my runner friends access to the area to make our experience as smooth as possible as part of my partnership with the ING Hartford Marathon. The VIP area was amazing with a dedicated area for elite runners, plenty of tables, bathrooms, food, and water for everyone before the race. We had a perfect view of the finish line, as you can see above! We were able to easily meet up with Laura and Melissa Z who were also running the marathon before heading over to the starting line together which was right near Bushnell Park. The start was truly a party with fun music pumping. The 4 of us were dancing in the starting corral in between stretching!

start line I am not sure how long it took us to cross the start as I didn’t look at the clock but I’d say we crossed the start within 10 minutes of the gun going off. Later in the race I would regret this choice.

Lesson #1 of the day: In any race, always look at the clock time when you cross the start so you know your time difference versus the race clocks along the course.

The first mile of the race flew by and before we knew it we said goodbye to Amy who veered right for the half marathon course. Melissa Z and I made plans earlier in the week to run together for at least the first 13 miles. This plan worked flawlessly as we reminded each other to fuel, sip water and keep our pace as close to 10:18 as possible. The first few miles of the course were through downtown Hartford and an overpass before we headed down into Riverside Park. Miles 3-8 were along the river in Riverside Park and absolutely beautiful. There was a decent amount of shade and due to the narrow course along these miles, many runners started talking with each other. The two of us primarily listened as we were trying to save energy, but it still helped the time pass.

Around Mile 8, as we exited the park’s lovely shade, I realized just how warm the last 18 miles would be. Unlike my previous 3 marathons where I barely sweat the entire race, due to cold temperatures, sweat was dripping into my eyes beginning at mile 8. I mentioned to Melissa that this was going to be very different than expected due to full sun, warm temperatures and humidity but she just said to focus and forget about it.

Lesson #2 of the day: If there is any sunshine or heat predicted, especially more than you are accustomed to, wear a visor to help block sun and sweat from face.

Lesson #3 of the day: When you realize temperatures or conditions may affect your run, think about altering your time goals early on in the race so you adjust and don’t burn out early. (Runner’s Connect has a great tool which adjusts your goal paces for you based on temperature. This shows I should have adjusted to a 10:27 versus 10:18 since it felt like 70 while we were running yesterday.)

After the scenic beauty of the park, we exited onto a street for miles 9-12 which weren’t very memorable. In fact, I recall a business park, some industrial park and an awesome volunteer who was out there with her oxygen tank. The sun was growing very warm at this point but we kept on our pace goal and even saw Kristin and her husband cheering around this point! (Thanks for the picture Kristin!)

imageIt was also around these miles where Melissa and I decided to take advantage of the multiple water stations. Hartford Marathon was had a water and Gatorade station at EVERY mile which was incredible especially considering yesterday’s weather. I wanted to ensure that I didn’t run out of NUUN in my CamelBak so I took a sip of water or Gatorade every other mile at this point.  At mile 10 we both took salt shots, minus the tequila, to help us since we were both sweating profusely.

Lesson #4: Always carry salt packs with you as you never know when you’ll need them. You can grab them at any fast food restaurant and they are perfect to use on a hot day!

Mile 14 we hit the out and back part of the race, which would last for 6 miles. I enjoy out and backs courses as I love watching for friends or running outfits on the other side. In smaller races, such as Hartford, it provides a good change of scenery. We hit a gradual 2 mile incline as we started heading up Main Street.  Main Street was dotted with homes and fall foliage, not quite as nice as I was expecting, but still very quaint and very “New England.” Unfortunately mile 14 is also where things started to go south. Melissa felt we were going fast and her Garmin had us running closer to a 10 minute pace while my watch showed we were around 10:20. We asked people next to us and they said they were running a sub 10. But, at this same time the 4:30 and 4:45 pace groups past us. I was wary of going too fast so decided to slow to Melissa’s watch. A few minute later, just as we passed the Mile 14 marker Melissa needed to stretch so I promised to stay on the right side of the road and slow my pace, in order for her to catch up. Unfortunately, I slowed my pace down to around an 11 minute pace at this point which really messed things up with my body. Suddenly I felt everything from my hips to my quads.

Lesson #5: Try to keep your pace within a few seconds of your goal pace for as long as possible as slowing or changing pace dramatically can affect your gait and muscles.

After stopping to stretch again at Mile 15 Melissa said I needed to proceed on my own as she didn’t know how long she could progress. We were both exceedingly hot at this point but Melissa was feeling ill. I took a 30 second too long stretch break and continued running. I put my headphones on at this point, thankful for my marathon playlist on Spotify. Around mile 16 I saw Laura running towards me and we exchanged quick smiles and waves. As expected, these miles were very quiet as there were only a few local families out spectating, many of which were just sitting outside watching versus cheering. I took my 3rd and last fuel pack around mile 16, wishing I had brought more. Luckily, there were multiple cyclists volunteers along the course passing out Gu packets. I grabbed 2 (tri-berry and vanilla) to save for later miles.

At Mile 18 I felt like complete crap. I was disgruntled that the pace groups had passed me. My Garmin which was 100% charged at the beginning of the race went dead. The moisturizer I put on was dripping in my eyes, which along with the salty sweat, burned and caused me to wince constantly. This was my lowest mile mentally as I just had no desire to continue running. I also knew that there was no one I knew cheering along any of these miles so I had very little to keep me motivated. Due to slowing my pace so early my hips and quads were tight in a way I had never felt before. At mile 19 I was forced to stop and stretch out a charlie horse in my calf. From this point on I told myself that I needed to be stronger. I had to get out of my head and just focus on putting one foot in front of the other whether walking, jogging, slogging, or running.

I had no idea what my pace through these miles was but did my best to jog for about 8 minutes and walk for 1-2 minutes. As I started this I also started keeping my eye on people, trying to pass them one by one. This worked wonderfully until mile 23.5 where I just hit the wall completely. I stopped to stretch and burst into tears. I’d trained so hard for this marathon and wanted a PR so badly. Without knowing my pace or the time, I had no idea how close or far from last years time I was. I felt like I had let Gia down as my coach. I felt like I’d let so many readers and friends down who had cheered and supported me and BELIEVED in my 4:30 goal. I probably stood there crying for about 2-3 minutes. Truly pathetic, I know. Now looking back it annoys me even more as if I’d been walking during these minutes or better yet jogging, I would have run a PR.

Then, this lovely woman who I’ll call Angel, since I didn’t get her name, came up and slapped me on the back. She said her goal had been to run sub 4:20, which she ran on the Hartford course last year, and had been following me all day. My pink tutu was the “rabbit” she was trying to keep up with after starting to feel fatigue early in the race. She said there was no way she was letting me hang out on the road. She motivated me to start jogging again and from that mile on we jogged to each water station. She warned me that the Founder’s Bridge, which we’d hit at 25.5, would feel like hell as it’s so late in the race. We kept moving over that bridge and then at mile 25.75 I saw a smiling face, Amy jumping up and down screaming at me. IMG_5102I was crying in both pain and excitement at this point. Amy hugged me and jumped in with me, as promised, to run the last half mile. She said that I’d crushed the first half, perfectly on pace. I laughed and told her that yes, I had crushed the first half and the second half had crushed me. I told her I was in pain and could only move at a slog until the last tenth a mile where I promised to give it my all. We passed Kristin and her husband at mile 26 who were cheering loudly and chanting. They were so incredible.  1374201_10101260610198855_1601307453_nThe finish shoot was exactly what I expected, magically lined with gorgeous Fall mums and tons of spectators screaming their heads off, including Laura and her mom. The announcer called out everyone’s name as we crossed and at that  point I was the happiest person in the world. Sure, I didn’t set a PR but not every race can be a PR. Yesterday’s marathon was about learning a lot, helping Melissa Z push through the first half, experiencing a new town and course, and finishing. 1381897_10200250126330626_1127165089_n After finishing I immediately followed Amy back towards the VIP area where we were able to celebrate with Laura, her mom, Kristin and her husband. There was delicious Harpoon beer, cold chocolate milk, candy corn, and a Mexican burrito bar waiting for me! We had a blast cheering on other runners until the course closed at the 6 hour mark. It was truly the perfect way to end a great day! VIP after partyThank you again to Danielle and the rest of the Hartford Marathon Foundation staff who made yesterday possible. It was a wonderful weekend filled with friends, good food, great memories, and 26.2 miles which taught me more than I ever expected!

*I received a complimentary marathon bib and entry to the VIP area in exchange for my blogging about the race.

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  1. Charlie (therunnerbeans) October 13, 2013 / 4:38 pm

    You haven’t let anyone down, you should be very proud of yourself for pressing on when lesser people might have given up!! Congratulations on finishing your 4th marathon, something that most people can only dream of achieving!

  2. Melissa Z October 13, 2013 / 4:53 pm

    You ran so strong yesterday! And it was so great to have a buddy for the first half. The conditions weren’t on your side but you pushed through and finished an amazing 4th marathon! With every run you get stronger and I know the next one that monster goal will be in your reach.

  3. Caitlin October 13, 2013 / 5:09 pm

    I’m so glad to hear that Hartford came through for you with great volunteers! Great race recap too. Sounds like it was a tough one to get through but it’s incredible that you did especially given the heat. You should be proud and I’m glad you enjoyed the post-race brews! Sorry I missed you at Plan B – how did you like it?

  4. Maureen October 13, 2013 / 5:12 pm

    Congratulations on finishing your race! I know all to well the disappointment and feeling of letting people down from my own experience in Philly last year, but you did a great job under challenging conditions. I absolutely believe you can run a 4:30 marathon, not just because of the physical improvements you’ve made in your running career, but also because you understand the mental part of racing so well and will use your experience in Hartford to your advantage in future races. Congratulations again on marathon #4!

  5. Stacey October 13, 2013 / 6:31 pm

    Congratulations on the race! You earned that beautiful metal! I ran yesterday too- and had a very similar experience (including leg cramps that had me sitting on the side of the road)! I finished well off from my expected finishing time- and it was so hard to let that goal slip away from me. You pretty much captured everything I have been feeling about this race!

  6. Caroline October 13, 2013 / 8:08 pm

    Congrats on a solid finish on your race even though it wasn’t the pace that you wanted. I know weather can really mess with pace, and sometimes being able to keep putting one foot in front of the other is what really takes courage and strength. Learn from the lessons and enjoy the accomplishments 🙂

  7. sally @ sweat out the small stuff October 13, 2013 / 8:08 pm

    You didn’t let anyone down. I have SOOOOOOOO been in those type of eye stinging from sweat, sunscreen, salt, moisturizer situations. Even with my visor it can get me. Being uncomfortable because you’re pushing the pace to try and PR is one thing but being uncomfortable from stinging eyeballs is torturous. The best part about yesterdays finish for you is that you never gave up. Glad that “angel” got you going again. There will always be races to run. But once you’ve completed a race it becomes a memory. And I think all memories are either good memories or valuable memories. Congrats on a a strong sub 5 marathon!

  8. Jodi @ October 13, 2013 / 8:40 pm

    Congrats on finishing your 4th marathon. It sounded like a hard day but you have already turned the experience around and instead of being upset, you are focussing on the positives and what you could do differently for next time. You have such a great spirit

  9. Laura Yamin October 13, 2013 / 8:47 pm

    Congratulations! You did it! Seriously it’s time to celebrate this 4th marathon.

    I have to say not all races are easy just like in life but you were able to demonstrate your courage to push through it. Remind me at least that we have to power to make it through the finish line no matter what. You did it!

    I hope you treat yourself this week to new boots and all of the other things you missed from NYC. xo

  10. Cate October 14, 2013 / 12:11 am

    You are amazing! Reading this recap made me cry because I’ve felt all the same emotions during a race. How can anyone be disappointed in you? You trained your heart out, and you finished the race. I know races can’t always go as hoped, but you still pushed through it and that shoes how awesome you are!

  11. mimi diamond October 14, 2013 / 2:32 am

    what a wonderful recap and congrats on such a successful run; we love your photos and you!!

    • ashleyd October 14, 2013 / 2:16 pm

      Thanks Mimi!! 🙂 We love you too! Thank you for your prayers!

  12. Ashley October 14, 2013 / 3:08 am

    I can’t even imagine Ashley! But seriously — way to pull through for an amazing race. You let NO ONE down, you just proved to us once again how strong you are!

  13. Aimee October 14, 2013 / 12:10 pm

    Pretty sure I’ve felt some of those emotions before. You definitely didn’t let anyone down.

    P.S I love those flowers leading up to the finish line! So pretty 🙂

  14. Anne October 14, 2013 / 1:22 pm

    I’m so proud of you for pushing through. 🙂 Thank you for continuing to be an inspiration to all of us! You’ll get that PR next time for sure.


    • ashleyd October 14, 2013 / 2:15 pm

      Thanks Anne! Every race has a different purpose and this one was good mental training!

  15. Anne October 14, 2013 / 1:23 pm

    p.s. I’ve been loving reading about your Europe adventures!

    • ashleyd October 14, 2013 / 2:15 pm

      I love reading about your amazing adventures as well and those yummy recipes! 🙂

  16. Nicole @ Pink Elephant on Parade October 15, 2013 / 5:20 pm

    you go girl! It’s like those marathon signs say: if the marathon was easy it’d be your mother. Or something. You get the idea.

    • ashleyd October 16, 2013 / 10:50 am

      Thanks Nicole! It feels great to have accomplished my 4th marathon!

  17. kelly October 16, 2013 / 3:35 pm

    I saw you running, I was by you around mile 16 (I think) I wish I recognized you, I would have said hi…though I only ran the second have of the marathon on a relay team…the second half of Hartford is tough and uninspiring!! Congrats!!

  18. Gwen October 17, 2013 / 6:59 pm

    Just catching up – well done, lady! Finishing a marathon is an amazing feat, even when it’s not a PR. I teared up reading about your angel. <3 Well done!

    • ashleyd October 19, 2013 / 4:04 pm

      Thanks Gwen!! Sometimes the toughest races are the most gratifying!!!

  19. Jocelyn October 24, 2013 / 5:35 pm

    Hey Ashley- I don’t know if you remember, but I’m the gal wearing the purple compression socks you asked about pace around mile 13-15? I’ve never read your blog before, but a photo of you on marathon day came across my social media some how and I recognized you from the race. Congrats on finishing! Pretty soon after you and your friend passed me I started throwing up and couldn’t keep water or fuel down. Finally the 5:00 pace group leader pulled me off the course at mile 19. I was totally devastated, but I have to tell you that running into you and your comment about how consistent my pace was helped me keep it up until mile 19, so thanks!

  20. Nicola October 25, 2013 / 3:14 am

    Maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t understand why you didn’t know your pace and overall time while out on the course? Did something go wrong with your Garmin?

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