The last time I ran five miles in competition, I was in my 30s. The last time I ran five miles in competition, I was capable of traversing the distance in much less than 30 minutes (at times less than 29). The last time I ran five miles in competition, I won the race. This time, I was well into my mid-40s and I was no longer capable of a mile pace even close to six minutes. Fear of slowness and embarrassment may have steered my decision to take on a "Turkey Trot" instead of the much more prestigious 4.7-miler in Manchester.
But before you pass judgment on me, know that fear wasn't the only thing influencing my decision to run the Madison Turkey Trot. Something even heavier pushed me south toward the Connecticut shoreline. Call it nostalgia or the need to reminisce, the older I get, the more I yearn for the places of my youth. And Hammonasset Beach is where many ghosts of my past reside.
Hammonasset was THE beach of my summers. My family camped there. There were friendships I renewed there every summer. And when I learned to drive, Hammonasset was the first "far away" place I drove on my own. I even went there on a date once. And when the high school girls track team got in trouble with our coach for "sapping our energy" in the sun before an important track meet, it was done at Hammonasset Beach. It seems the only thing I had never done at Hammonasset was run a race.
That changed on November 25. After a nine-hour drive to Connecticut and a relatively decent night's sleep, my mom, my husband Jim, and I got up and made the drive to the beach on Thanksgiving morning. The weather was windy and overcast and in the low 30s. Just as I was about to complain about the cold, I overheard another runner say "at least it's not raining like last year." So much for complaining.
|Mom checks out an explanation about beach erosion.|
When I lost all feeling in my fingers, mom and I went back to the car to warm up. Jim just laughed at our need to see the beach in this weather. When I could feel my hands again, I got out of the car and went for a pre-race jog around the campgrounds. Again, everything seemed so much smaller than I remember and I was surprised to find it took me only 10 minutes to cover ground that seemed to take a whole day on my very first bike (the one with the banana seat that started out with training wheels).
|A reason to wear my Punk Rock Racing beanie!|
The first two miles were a flat out-and-back loop followed by a flatter and bigger loop that went to Meigs Point and back. Meigs Point had always been the "forbidden zone" of my youth. It was too far away for me to go "alone." I never knew why -- maybe shady characters hung out there? Several years ago, a woman was murdered there (the case remains unsolved to this day). At any rate, my brothers and I were not allowed to go there on our own although my brothers used to brag about doing it all the time behind my parents' backs. But on Thursday, I finally got to go there. And, as if in defiance, I did it right in front of my mom! Heck, it wasn't even really that far -- only a short run away. I'm sure my mom wasn't worried about my safety, though, as I was with more than 2000 other people.
The race itself began as an enigma. I had no idea how fast to go out. The last time I did a running-only race, it was a marathon. And after my last race -- Ironman 70.3 Clearwater on November 13 -- I took a week off. I was in no shape to attempt running a race. My body was in no shape for any speed whatsoever. My lungs were aching by the first mile. But surprisingly, I looked down and saw 6:20 on my watch. Not as slow as I expected. (Not fast either. But still, not slow.) Even more surprisingly, I was able to speed up and hold onto a 6:10-11 pace for the next three miles. By mile four, I even saw the leaders coming into sight.
|I've seen better days (and better finish sprints).|
My last mile was so slow, I refuse to mention it here. It was so slow, I may have been running backwards. It was so slow, I wondered if the course was long. It wasn't.
I "ran it in" to finish 66th overall, 5th among the women and first in the women 45-49 (i.e., old) age group. Mom, Jim, and I hung around long enough for the sun to come out, get some post race refreshments, and pick up my award (a neat little mesh bag). When they announced my age group and my time as 32:00, a guy in the crowd said to me: "that's a GREAT time." I added "for an old lady."
Older and wiser.
Here are some photos of the beach of my youth: