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If You Can’t Race, Pace

Posted May 29 2013 9:58am

No matter the reason, it’s always hard to miss a race — particularly one that you put in months of training and hard work for. Even if you know that running would be stupid, even if the forecast for the day involves rain, wind, and more rain, and EVEN IF you had spent weeks coming to terms with the decision to DNS…when race morning rolls around, it’s hard to escape the depression. Because the truth is, on race morning, no matter what the conditions or how I’m feeling, I’d always rather be running.

But we can save the dramatics for another day. Because although my birthday weekend went nothing like I had originally planned (and may have included a slight emotional breakdown on Sunday), I still had a great weekend at the races. Only this time instead of racing, I was pacing.

Saturday was the Southern Vermont Girls on the Run 5K. As a first year coach, I really had no idea what to expect. I knew the girls were all excited about it (even the ones who aren’t really too keen on running), but I didn’t really comprehend the level of pride they would all get from completing the race until I was a part of it.

The weather on Saturday morning was awful — cold, rainy, and wet (which had basically been the theme all week). But that didn’t stop them from running around excitedly getting their faces painted, hair sprayed, and bodies tattooed. Then again, it’s hard not to be excited when you’re wearing one of these.

GOTR_unicorn hats

Nothing says, “Race Ready” like a pink sparkly unicorn cap, right? These were the girls’ idea and ended up being a huge hit. I’m actually thinking about making it a permanent addition to my race day attire.

GOTR_5K startWhy yes, those are whiskers on my face. Haven’t you ever seen a whiskered unicorn before?

The 5K course basically made three loops around Brattleboro, with the first loop being the longest and the last one finishing around the track. The design was perfect. It was so much easier to keep the girls motivated by counting our “laps.” And I quickly mastered the art of making deals to keep them motivated.

“Okay, we’re going to run to that corner and THEN we can walk.”

“See that sign up ahead? That’s where we’re going to start running again.”

Essentially the same concept I’ve used for years to keep myself motivated during tough runs, races, and workouts – break up the torture by creating mini-goals.

We may not have run fast, or even run the whole time, and I may not know our finish time (I think the clock said 40 minutes when we crossed…though we had to have been about a minute back from the starting line), but I had a blast. Probably the most fun 5K I’ve ever done. Though I can’t say for sure whether that’s because I was running with the girls or because of our amazing hats…

GOTR_unicorns startWe definitely stood out in the crowd

All in all, I’m so glad I got to coach GOTR this season. Do I agree with every single aspect of the program? No. But then again, can you really expect to (unless it’s something you created yourself)? Seeing the impact the group had on the girls’ self-esteem and strength over the past 10 weeks was pretty incredible. This is our final week of practice and I already know I’m going to miss them.

The GOTR 5K on Saturday was just the warm-up. We left the house just before 5:00 am on Sunday for the main event – the KeyBank Vermont City Marathon . Stephanie and her husband Derek had been staying with us for the weekend, and although I felt bad that I would no longer be standing on that starting line with her, I was excited to go cheer. Again, the day was windy, rainy, and cold — not exactly ideal marathon conditions. To her credit, however, Steph didn’t seem to let the weather get her down, and was noticeably more calm than I’ve ever been before a race…or at least that’s how it seemed.

Unfortunately, the second we arrived in Burlington all those feelings of jealousy and regret that I had been anticipating gathered in the pit of my stomach. I tried to push them down, rationalizing that this decision had been for the best. But it was hard to push the sadness away.

And then, because things were already going so well that morning, my iPhone slipped out of my pocket during a quick run to the port-a-potties and landed face down on the pavement. The screen was completely shattered. Such a fitting disaster, I suppose.

Anyway, the plan was to see the runners at the start and then move up the street a bit to catch them between miles 3 and 4, and again between 8 and 9. For the most part, VCM is a super spectator friendly course. There are some loops that are harder to get to than others, but with just a little walking, you can easily see your runner at least 3 – 4 different times. That’s my kind of marathon!

Steph_mile9_VCM Steph cruising along to Mile 9

My original plan was to jump in with Steph around mile 20 and keep her company for the last 10K. However, we quickly realized that the design of the course and current road closures would make it really tough to get up there. So instead we waited around mile 16. I told her I’d jump in for a little while, leave if she was doing okay and meet her in a few miles when the course doubled back.

I will let her tell you her own race story, but suffice it to say — it was a difficult day. The conditions were tough and the course isn’t exactly easy (though what marathon is, really?). I ended up staying with her for the entire 10 miles. I’ve actually never run with someone for so long during a marathon. It can be hard to walk that fine line between being encouraging and annoying, especially since I hadn’t been with her the entire way. When we joined up, I felt great. I had been standing around in the cold and rain all morning and was itching to run. Steph, on the other hand, had already been going for over 2 hours by this point. I’m not so sure my chipper tales of our morning were completely welcomed…but she’s also too nice of a person to tell me otherwise. I tried to push a little when I thought I could, but mostly I just followed her lead — encouraging her as often as I could and providing moral support just by being there.

Getting to run the last 10 miles of the marathon with someone who was working so hard to achieve a goal offered some much-needed redemption. I was so glad I got to be there for Stephanie as she pushed through with incredible determination toward the finish. Often watching other runners push their limits and excel can be far more inspiring than doing something yourself. And I loved every second of it. By the time she got to the finish, I was filled with so much pride and excitement. All thoughts of my own missed race were gone.

Plus, getting to see the last 10 miles of the course made me even more determined to return to VCM someday.


The afternoon ended with pizza and beers at American Flatbread — one of the most delicious pizza places in the world. Seriously, if you’re ever in Burlington (or Middlebury or Waitsfield), I highly recommend giving this place a try. It’s everything a wood-fired pizza should be.

And then a drive back home to binge-watch the new season of Arrested Development . After a disappointing first episode, I was happy that things started getting better. I think we’re 11 episodes in at this point and although I’ve found certain episodes pretty funny, I have to say that I miss the old format. The interaction of the entire Bluth family was what made the series great in the first place. (Anyone else?)

Congratulations to everyone who ran VCM this weekend! It was fun to see some of you out there and cheer from the sidelines as you all dominated! And a very special shout-out to Anthea, who crushed her marathon PR only a few weeks after racing Eugene — CONGRATS on an amazing race!

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